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Bill Polian Key for Bears Search

Former Colts GM will advise George McCaskey and Ted Phillips in the hunt to replace coach Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace.

The key figure in the hunt by the Bears for a new coach and general manager is none other than Bill Polian, the same former general manager whose Colts beat the Bears in Super Bowl XLI.

Other than that, the Bears are embarking upon a quest for a football coach and personnel boss with a slightly altered organizational structure and a desire to get it right this time.

Bears board chairman George McCaskey on Monday announced his plans for moving forward after explaining the firing of Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy.

"2018 was a great ride: 12 wins and a division title," McCaskey said. "Ryan was executive of the year and Matt was coach of the year. We thought we were on our way. Unfortunately, it could not be sustained. Instead, we regressed. Our offense failed to show improvement. We continued to struggle at home. We did not close the gap within our division. In the end, we didn't win enough games.

"Our guys never quit. And that's a tribute to our players, the type of player that Ryan looked for in the draft and free agency, and the way Matt and his staff coached them."

McCaskey said the search for replacements begins now, but to many Bears fans it seems likely to produce the same old results because the same two decision makers are key within the hunt—McCaskey and CEO Ted Phillips.

"We will be thorough, diligent and exhaustive," McCaskey said of the search. "It will result in the best possible selections to lead the Bears to success. The general manager will be responsible for the entire football operation.

"For head coach, we will not be limited by philosophy, scheme, whether a candidate's background is on the offensive side of the ball, defensive or special teams, whether a candidate has previous head-coaching experience, whether a candidate's background is in the college game or the pro game, or financial considerations."

It all sounds like the same game plan as twice before with a few extra non-football people thrown into the process.

Instead of Ernie Accorsi advising them as happened with Ryan Pace's hiring, they have Polian helping. 

The bottom line is McCaskey and Phillips want Bears fans to simply trust they'll get it right on this go-around, after firing Lovie Smith, hiring and firing GM Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman, and hiring and firing Pace and Nagy.

"Frustrated Bears (fans) may be thinking, 'What makes him think he's going to get it right this time?' " McCaskey said. "We're confident that with the experience we've gained, and with the makeup of our search team, we will find a general manager and a head coach who will lead our Bears to the success that all our Bears fans deserve."

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Phillips participating is sure to cause raised eyebrows because the GM now will answer only to McCaskey in a new company hierarchy.  Before he answered to Phillips. But McCaskey felt a need to have Phillips' input.

"Because I trust Ted implicitly," he said. "Because I have great respect for his judgement, his analytical skills, his instincts when it comes to the people that we're interviewing. And in the end he'll be negotiating the contract of the general manager and the head coach."

Besides Polian, Bears director of player engagement LaMar "Soup" Campbell and senior vice-president of diversity, equity and inclusion Tenesha Wade are the other two with input in the hiring of the coach and GM. Campbell's expertise will be in advising on leadership qualities, a key trait McCaskey says he is seeking.

Polian is vital because he really is the only one of the five with expertise in hiring successful NFL coaches and GMs. His Colts with Tony Dungy as coach beat the Bears 29-17 in the Super Bowl after the 2006 season.

Polian is 79 years old now, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame since 2015 and has officially been out of the NFL since being fired by the Colts in 2011.

"Yes, we are not exactly spring chickens," McCaskey said, referring to himself and Polian, "but Bill has been around the game a long time, he knows the game very well. 

"I recall, George Halas was in his 80s when he made a then very controversial but ultimately successful selection for a head coach and Bill is much younger than that."

Halas hired Mike Ditka, the only Bears Super Bowl-winning coach.

The other big issue facing the team is talent level around quarterback Justin Fields, and a year ago Phillips told everyone at a press conference they didn't have the quarterback right but had everything else. Then they drafted Fields and went 6-11.

"Well clearly we weren't happy with the results," Phillips said. "So we need to get better. 

"And I think as George pointed out besides the fact the general manager is going to report to him, which is a big change, we're going to the general managers to structure his personnel department in a way that he feels he has enough support and enough expertise so that he can not only oversee the head coach but also his personnel department and to be able to ultimately set along with the head coach plans for each player and to hold the coach accountable for the schemes that he deploys."

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