Chicago Bears Need a Theo Epstein

Sep 28, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs general manager Theo Epstein signs autographs before the Cubs game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 28, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs general manager Theo Epstein signs autographs before the Cubs game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

With a decade of ineptitude and just one trip to the playoffs in that span, the Chicago Bears need a Theo Epstein of their very own.

With the Chicago Cubs about to embark on their second straight trip to the postseason, they signed team President Theo Epstein to a five-year, $50 million contract extension.  Meanwhile, the Chicago Bears continue to flounder.  They’ve started their second straight season 0-3 and haven’t sniffed the postseason since 2010.  The Bears need a football man running the team; their own version of Theo Epstein.

The lack of a FOOTBALL person and a FOOTBALL direction for the Chicago Bears goes back over 30 years.  After George “Papa Bear” Halas passed away in 1983, his eldest daughter Virginia Halas McCaskey took over the team, and her son Michael was named team president.  Michael was known to meddle in football decisions, insisting the Bears draft Stan Thomas against head coach Mike Ditka’s wishes as one example.

Michael was fired as team president after he bungled the hiring of Dave McGinnis, with former team accountant Ted Phillips elevated to the position of team president.  Phillips was a key to brokering the deal for the Soldier Field renovation with then-mayor Richard Daley, so he was rewarded with the title he holds to this very day.

When he’s needed to make key hires, he’s hired search firms.  A search firm yielded general manager Jerry Angelo.  A search firm yielded Phil Emery.  An outsider, former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi, helped George McCaskey select Ryan Pace.   How have those selections worked out?  Why can’t the Chicago Bears, the founding franchise of the NFL, not have a president of football operations?

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Look at what Theo Epstein did for the Cubs.  He came in and tore the organization down to the studs, almost literally.  He revamped the way EVERYTHING is done within the organization.  He implemented a new way – the Cubs way – of doing everything.  There was a handbook that guided everyone within the organization.  He turned over the scouting department and changed the way they evaluate players and file their reports.  Heck, he even turned over the IT department and implemented a new computer system.

I’ll admit that football and baseball are very different games with different structures.  There is no farm system in the NFL to know you’ve got young studs in the pipeline.  I’ve got to believe that someone like Theo would still benefit the Bears.

If you look at the very core of the Bears problems, it’s a lack of talent.  They’ve been bungling drafts for as long as I can remember.  You know the best way to tell the Bears are missing on draft picks?  How many of their draft picks go on to sign big-ticket free agent contracts elsewhere?  It’s rare that their homegrown guys go on to bigger things leaving the Bears.  The Bears rarely get any supplemental draft picks because they’re always bringing in more big money free agents than their castoffs.

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The Bears need a football czar to come in and clean house the way Theo did with the Cubs.   Let “sweaty Teddy” be in charge of business decisions and keep those checks rolling in for the McCaskey family.  Hire a president of football operations and hand him the keys to the car.  Let the McCaskeys appear as the figureheads, but leave all football decisions to the new hire.

This isn’t a knock a Ryan Pace.  It’s too early to gauge his success or failure.  He may turn out to be a great GM, but he’s green and still learning on the job.  I want an experienced former GM or team president, maybe someone like a Mike Holmgren, to come in and run the football operations.

Look at the most successful organizations in the NFL.  They’ve got a football guru at the top of the org chart – Bill Belichick for the New England Patriots or Ted Thompson for the Green Bay Packers.  Those teams are built through the draft with a pipeline of talent year after year.  When they say “next man up,” it’s meaningful.  When the Bears say “next man up” that man may have been on the street the week before.

Who knows, if Theo grows to like Chicago enough, maybe he’ll consider changing sports and helping the Bears when his contract with the Cubs is up.  God knows, the McCaskeys are unlikely to make any significant changes any time soon.  What’s another five years when it’s been 31 years since their last Super Bowl!?!?