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A Good Bears Idea Denied

Former Bears player denies speaking to the McCaskey family about taking front-office role with the team.

It's a time of year when plenty of rumors and reports, valid and otherwise, surface in the NFL. The false report of Matt Nagy's firing after the Detroit game showed as much.

A 4-8 team like the Bears is going to be the center of all types of possibilities in the offseason but a report on Sunday by CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora excited Bears fans, and the reason was it makes real sense because it could mean drastic structural change like the organization has needed for decades.

The report said the team has spoken to former Bears defensive end Trace Armstrong about a high management position, one described as the general manager's boss. 

It would have meant the Bears are at least thinking about putting a level of management above the general manager and separating the on-field product more from business people within management/ownership who know very little about the actual sport.

Armstrong has been a frequent visitor at Halas Hall for training camp the past few years, and should. The 1989 Bears first-round draft pick is coach Matt Nagy's agent, just as he has been an agent for Mike McCarthy, Urban Meyer, Ryan Day and numerous others, including even current Bears senior offensive assistant Tom Herman.

Unlike Bears ownership during the Nagy firing debacle of Thanksgiving week, this false report was met with rapid denial and by the supposed source of it. Armstrong flat-out denied it on Twitter.

Thinking Armstrong would have wanted to move into such a role seemed a stretch because he has built such a strong client base it's questionable whether the Bears would even be able to make such a thing worthwhile to him monetarily.

Armstrong came to the Bears as a 1989 first-round draft pick. In one of only four Bears post-Mike Ditka era playoff wins, Armstrong had two sacks when the Bears beat the Minnesota Vikings in the 1994 playoffs at Minneapolis. Then his career in Chicago ended via free agency right after this. Armstrong was a player well liked by teammates and always by media in Chicago. 

It's been clear for years the McCaskeys ownership family hasn't wanted this kind of structural change.

In late December, 2014 when Phil Emery and Marc Trestman were fired, team board chairman George McCaskey was asked by longtime Bears and NFL writer Dan Pompei if the team's structure with a GM reporting to president/CEO Ted Phillips required change.

"We feel ... that the structure we have is a good one, with the head coach reporting to the general manager, the general manager reporting to the president, and the president reporting to the chairman, but if that needed adjustment in order to get the right person, we wouldn't foreclose that possibility," McCaskey said.

A little more than two years later after John Fox's second season degenerated into a 3-13 fiasco, McCaskey felt the need to meet with media at season's end. He was asked again if they needed to change this structure.

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"No. We think we have the right structure. We think we have the right people," McCaskey said.

Much has changed since then, and it goes beyond the two playoff berths and losses, as well as subsequent decay this season. 

The pursuit of a possible stadium on the Arlington Heights racetrack land will no doubt put a huge burden on Phillips and McCaskey. They need to come up with private funding because there is nothing available in Illinois government for public funding according to  Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Having a president of football operations or head of football operations who isn't answering to Phillips but presides over the GM would clear the way for the product to be purely determined by people with actual football knowledge, but also let Phillips focus on what he can do best for a stadium.

It might mean firing GM Ryan Pace and Nagy both, or keeping Pace with a new boss over him while Nagy is dispatched. Or it could mean both are gone and the new president of operations gets to start with a clean slate. 

This would make too much sense, so don't expect the Bears to venture down that road.

There's no word on whether they've run any of this by the actual team owner, Aaron Rodgers, but they're in Green Bay now for the Sunday night game so maybe they could get permission. 

This is a joke for those lacking all sense of humor.

While it might not be Armstrong, they need to find someone else for such a role. It's an idea whose time has come.

It actually came about a decade ago, but no one ever accused the Bears of being on the cutting edge of anything since the T-formation.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven