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What the Bears Need to Succeed

Analysis: George McCaskey is aiming at the wrong target again by saying the Bears need leaders, because even losers have leaders.

It sounded good at the time.

Bears board chairman George McCaskey told everyone at Monday's season-ending press conference the main qualification he seeks is leadership.

"We'll be looking for leaders, both in the general manager and the head coach," McCaskey said.

His advisor in this project, Bill Polian, wrote the book "Super Bowl Blueprints" and when reading it McCaskey liked the message about leadership.

"So the primary quality we'll be looking for in both the general manager and the head coach is leadership," McCaskey said.

If this truly is the case and not another of McCaskey's friendly buzzword crutches like "collaboration" was last year, then he already is starting on the wrong basis in what looks like a wide search for the best candidates.

McCaskey is already shooting at the wrong target.

Leadership Is Merely a Prerequisite

The Bears just fired a coach who was more than an adequate leader. To hear Bears players after the dirty deed had been done, they let down a family member by losing so much this year. 

Nagy was a tone setter and built personal connections with players, not totally unlike the way Lovie Smith had done. Nagy seemed tight with veterans from David Montgomery to Jaylon Johnson to Khalil Mack. Nagy knew how to connect and get players to perform. 

The end of the regular season both in 2019 and 2021 showed as much. The Bears kept playing hard even when they had nothing to play for, while opponents like the New York Giants, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars had long-since packed it in and forgot coaching messages.

Pace found a good leader in Nagy. What Pace didn't find was a coach who knew how to oversee and implement an offense of his own design, or one with a mastery of football strategy. 

Nagy's experience was very limited as play caller and his expertise had been more as a quarterbacks coach than an offensive coordinator. Bears play calling was always an adventure under Nagy, whether he made the actual call or offensive coordinators Mark Helfrich and Bill Lazor did it. First-and-goal from the 1 and they run end-around plays or shovel passes to the tight end out of the shotgun. Mike Ditka had to be shaking his head. 

They put undue pressure on their offensive line and quarterbacks by assuming unattainable levels of ability or function. The Cleveland game and the refusal to chip block or keep tight ends entirely in the backfield against a blitzing scheme trying to rattle rookie Justin Fields was the perfect example.

Guard James Daniels described Nagy's flaws almost like an artist painting a portrait.

"Players play but coaches also have to put their players in the best position that they can, possible," Daniels said. "Like for example I'm watching a game and I'm seeing the highest-paid left tackle in the NFL get chips, multiple chips, not just one chip, multiple chips, versus an undrafted free agent rookie rushing.

"I'm seeing 38- 39-year-old Jason Peters—he's a great player but with no chips he's blocking one of the best pass-rushers to ever play in the NFL one-on-one constantly on the road. So it's just situations like that where I think coaches could have helped."

Nagy overestimated or didn't bother to acknowledge this aspect of the game. He didn't realistically recognize what his players on offense were truly capable of, just what he wanted from them. Nick Foles saw this in 2020 and expressed it while he was getting knocked around like a tackling dummy on a weekly basis.

Nagy could lead. He just asked too much of players on the offensive side of the ball, especially from the linemen and his rookie quarterback.

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And at the end of his time as coach it became apparent Nagy was asking too much from players on the defensive side when he started talking about a lack of complementary football and the failure to get takeaways by his defense. His own offense had already put far too much pressure on their defense in the previous 3 1/2 seasons by failing to score more than an average of 20 points a game. Asking them to do anything more of them was a cruel demand.

So if the Bears simply need to find the best leader, well, then McCaskey should just get on the phone and call Nagy back. He needs to tell him all is forgiven. But more is needed now.

Leadership is a baseline for the job, not the quality to put a coaching candidate over the top. The GM spot is not simply leadership either. It is more of an ability to spot real talent and acquire it without trading away valued draft picks.

This is where Pace failed forever and ever. 

Pace should have taken a course from Philadelphia's Howie Roseman on being a ruthless conniver. Then he would have succeeded. That man knows how the GM game should be played.

Sweeping Wide

The Bears appear like they're going to all corners to talk to people, which is good initially because of the lack of expertise on their hiring committee, aside from Polian.

Brian Daboll, Doug Pederson, Nathaniel Hackett, Todd Bowles, Byron Leftwich, Dan Quinn and Matt Eberflus were among the initial coaching candidates reported.  Jeff Ireland, Ed Dodds, Morocco Brown, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Glenn Cook are among the first GM candidates reportedly in the interview process. 

They may need to be a bit more like Denver and pursue more top offensive minds. Rams coordinator Kevin O'Connell and Cowboys OC Kellen Moore are on the Denver list according to Mile High Huddle. Both are trending upward at a rapid pace in terms of respect.

Although defense might not be the direction they need to go, talking to Bowles is a no-brainer after he produced the kind of attacking defense that even struck fear into Aaron Rodgers. What Flores did in Miami after that franchise completely gutted its roster in 2019 was completely remarkable. Going 10-6 in 2020 and 9-8 in 2021 by winning eight out of nine after a 1-7 start showed they had pulled it together and needed only a piece or two to be perennial playoff challengers. 

Above all else, until it's known the Bears have at least talked to Jim Harbaugh and made him a real offer without even considering other coaching candidates, then they are wasting an opportunity they may never again have—the chance to hire a very successful coach of their own bloodline, so to speak.  

It probably won't happen because it takes more than $15 an hour to hire Harbaugh.

Find Winners 

In Chicago, there are already plenty of pieces in place to win and, sure, they're looking for someone to lead them. 

More than that, though, they need to be looking for people who can mold those pieces and add more.

Even losers have leaders. 

In 2018 the Bears hired as their coach Andy Reid's understudy, a real leader who brought along the Kansas City offense. What they didn't hire was Andy Reid and his ability to win.

They need the ability to win, and not simply an ability to lead or bring along with them an offense or a defense. McCaskey himself has acknowledged it's a bottom-line business.

If they find a GM and coach with the ability to win, they'll already have leaders. 

Then McCaskey finally can actually say he also is a winner.

Twitter: BearDigest @BearsOnMaven