LAKE FOREST – Almost as rare as playoff appearances for the Bears so far this decade has been the sight of their President at a podium.
But when Ted Phillips talked on Monday at Halas Hall at a new conference, he did so with a purpose and a little bit of news.
He stood up in front of the media and backed General Manager Ryan Pace’s rebuilding plan despite just 14 wins in three seasons and the firing of head coach John Fox after just three seasons. In fact, he put his money where his mouth is by giving Pace a two-year contract extension on his original deal that keeps him with the Bears through 2021.
“Because he’s earned the opportunity to see his plan to fruition,” said Phillips right after announcing the extension. “And as President and CEO I’m committed to providing the resources necessary to bring the best players, coaches, staff, and facilities to be a league leader – and that will translate to sustainable on-field success.”
It’s not quite going out on a limb for Phillips, who had Pace locked in till 2019 anyway. It only makes his coaching choice which he’ll make that much more important over the coming weeks.
The General Manager now has four years left on his contract, likely the length of the contract the Bears will sign with coach who will replace Fox. Hence Pace will be tied to this hire more than he was to the one made shortly after his tenure began in January of 2015.
During a half-hour news conference following the news of his extension, Pace was careful to set guidelines on any part of the search. From offensive or defensive, from assistant to previous head coach, the general manager was coy with specifics on what he might be looking for to lead the Bears in 2018 and beyond.
“I don’t think that’s going to be a critical factor, you can see successful coaches all around the league come from different backgrounds so I wouldn’t paint ourselves into that either,” said Pace when asked about having a leader with previous head coaching experience. “Good coaches have a way of developing young players and that needs to continue.”
Right now the Bears are content to let Pace do the same as they make their third head coaching change since the end of the 2012 season. It’s worth noting that this decade the franchise has fired more coaches than they’ve had postseason games (2 in 2010), yet the team is convinced that Pace’s path is one to success.
“Through all of these difficult times, he’s kept an even keel, he doesn’t get rattled. People look to him for leadership and he’s a dynamic leader and outstanding communicator,” said Bears chairman George McCaskey of Pace on Monday. “Has great organizational skills and great analytical skills and we’re looking forward to better things.”
With Ryan Pace to be specific.