Emma: Still lost in futility, Bears fail to produce any reasons for hope

Bears chairman George McCaskey didn't make major changes after an 8-8 season.
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By 670 The Score

(670 The Score) For an hour-and-a-half Wednesday morning, the four returning leaders of the Bears organization -- chairman George McCaskey, president Ted Phillips, general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy -- were asked the same question in many forms.

Why will this get any better?

Once again, there were no answers to be found -- zero solutions presented for improving the future of a franchise so lost in futility that it knows the sight of nothing else. The Bears have gone 8-8 in back-to-back seasons, have failed to win a playoff game in the past decade and are holding nobody accountable.

McCaskey declined to make any serious change for his franchise despite his admitted "frustration." Phillips isn't being moved from his role as the chief executive to McCaskey's side. Pace won't be fired despite a fifth non-winning season in his six-year tenure in Chicago. Nagy will remain despite failing to lead progress in 2020.

The Bears are bringing the same leadership back for 2021, a season in which they lack the salary cap space needed to drastically improve the roster and also one in which they lack significant draft resources to alter the team's long-term trajectory as an aging core of top players returns.

So, once again: Why will this get any better?

"I don't know, frankly, that a lot of people have confidence in this course of action," McCaskey said. "But sometimes, you have to take the route you think is best, even when it's not the most popular decision."

McCaskey certainly feels the pulse of Chicago and its reaction to retaining Pace and Nagy for another season. Before becoming chairman of the team in 2011, he worked as the Bears' senior director of ticket operations, a role in which he spoke directly with fans on a daily basis. McCaskey has received "hate mail" from Bears fans throughout this season who are pleading for organizational change, he said Wednesday.

Of course, there's nobody whose job is to hold McCaskey accountable as Bears chairman, and that's why there's no change. McCaskey is moving forward with Phillips as president, Pace as general manager and Nagy as coach because it's ultimately his choice.

The Bears have never won a playoff game in McCaskey's tenure as chairman and have reached the postseason just twice. That includes this past Sunday, when the Bears fell 21-9 to the Saints in the wild-card round. The Bears have had consecutive winning seasons just once (2005-'06) in the last 25 years. Yet instead of evaluating the state of the franchise based on results, McCaskey and the Bears continue to operate based on their own blind faith.

"Because when you sit back and you look at what makes a successful organization besides wins and losses, it’s the people that you have," Phillips said. "It’s whether or not they can put their egos down. It’s whether or not they can look at situations, self-reflect, admit to their mistakes and try to find learnings from not just their mistakes but the successes that they’ve had and build off of those. Has it happened as fast as we’d like it to? No. It hasn’t.

"We need to see improvement. We need to see improvement. We’ve read many times over the last few weeks, there’s a desire to fire everyone. When you don’t win enough games, fire everyone. That is not a recipe for success in our opinion. When you believe in the people that you have who can learn from their mistakes. If there was finger pointing, we would understand that. That is not a recipe for success."

As the Bears endured a six-game losing streak this season, the calls for firings grew louder in Chicago. But for McCaskey, the prolonged losing skid ended up providing proof for why he should retain Pace and Nagy. He felt the Bears coming out of the turbulence unscathed in their belief in one another was a "tribute" to the team.

The Bears won three of their final four games against weak competition -- beating the Texans (4-12), Vikings (7-9) and Jaguars (1-15) -- and managed to secure the No. 7 seed in the NFC by virtue of a tiebreaker. McCaskey looked at 2020 as "a losing season," but it wasn't enough to force change.

McCaskey will now allow Phillips to enter his 22nd year as president of the Bears despite his role being largely insignificant to the football operations. He will let Pace enter a seventh year in Chicago despite being only one of two top football executives to last that long without a playoff win (Bengals owner Mike Brown, the team's general manager, is the other). And he will trust Nagy with a fourth year as coach despite the downward trajectory since his 12-4 debut season in 2018.

McCaskey and Phillips will continue to oversee a franchise that makes winning an anomaly. Pace will get a fourth attempt at bringing the Bears a quarterback after missing badly the first three times. Nagy will be tasked with guiding a declining roster forward.

Again, why are the Bears going to be any better in 2021?

"We see lots of reasons for hope," Phillips said.

The Bears just failed to name one.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.