The terrible 5-11 team coached by Marc Trestman and assembled by Phil Emery pushed Mrs. McCaskey to the brink and provoked the firing of both men. George McCaskey, Virginia's son who is the Bears' chairman, was explaining those seismic moves when asked to describe his mother's role in the process and reaction to the lost season.
Clearly holding back emotion, McCaskey paused 10 seconds before revealing how deeply this dysfunctional year affected his family — particularly the team matriarch.
"She's been very supportive,'' McCaskey started, stopping again for several seconds.
"She agrees with the decisions that we made,'' he continued, pausing again. "She's pissed off. I can't think of a 91-year-old woman that that description would apply, but in this case, I can't think of a more accurate description.''
Exactly 51 years after George Halas coached his last of six championship teams in a 14-10 victory over the Giants, the Bears boldly recommitted themselves to winning another in the name of his daughter.
"She's been on this earth for eight of the Bears' nine championships, and she wants more,'' McCaskey said. "She feels that it's been too long since the last one (in the 1985 season), and that dissatisfaction is shared by her children, her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren. She's fed up with mediocrity. She feels that she and Bears fans everywhere deserve better."
Those were the fans McCaskey represented at the podium, the ones clamoring for the end of the Emery-Trestman regime. The ones fed up by a historically bad defense and woefully underachieving offense. The ones who opened training camp talking Super Bowl and ended the year asking for mercy. The ones McCaskey still considers himself one of no matter what's on his business card. This wasn't a football executive handing out pink slips as much as it was a die-hard Bears fan letting his heart guide his head.
"I don't know if I can establish a hierarchy of pain, but this was a painful season,'' McCaskey said, speaking for Grabowskis everywhere.
In that way, McCaskey won the day before saying a word by firing Trestman and Emery the way so many sports-talk radio callers have requested since the Packers took a 42-0 halftime lead Nov. 9. When McCaskey spoke of re-establishing the toughness and identity that became indecipherable under Trestman, you almost could hear the applause erupting in man caves from Lake Forest to LaGrange.
"People need to know that when they've played the Chicago Bears, they've been through hell,'' McCaskey said.
Clearly, McCaskey came prepared to hit the right notes publicly. Asked about the costs of cleaning out the coaching staff and front office, McCaskey scoffed: "Money wasn't a factor.'' Pressed whether Jay Cutler would be involved in coaches' interviews, as he was in 2013, McCaskey clarified: "I don't see any players playing a role in that decision.''
At some point, McCaskey might have to worry whether firing two general managers and two head coaches since taking over as chairman in 2011 paints him as an impatient and impulsive leader — a Midwestern version of Redskins owner Daniel Snyder? — but this was a day about catering to the masses for the good of the franchise.
McCaskey's exuberance and authenticity suggested the next Bears head coach might be cut from the same cloth; outwardly enthusiastic coaches such as Rex Ryan and Mike Smith — both fired Monday by the Jets and Falcons, respectively. Mike Shanahan isn't necessarily from that mold, but Shanahan's stature makes him a logical candidate for a management team that wants to compete in 2015. Others with NFL head-coaching experience such as Gary Kubiak and Jack Del Rio would make sense to interview too — though Monday's only revelation was the Bears never approached Jim Harbaugh.
Still, McCaskey further appeased popular opinion by making the wise move of hiring consultant Ernie Accorsi, the 73-year-old former Giants executive whose pedigree and personnel contacts offer credibility to simultaneous searches for a head coach and GM. The inclusion of Accorsi assuages those concerned with the input of Bears President Ted Phillips, who appeared alongside McCaskey to the chagrin of many.
"If you lose confidence in what the status quo is, then you realize in your heart that it's time to make a change,'' Phillips said. "I look at it less of a challenge than an opportunity to bring the Bears back to greatness.''
And why is Phillips still looking at anything that isn't strictly business-related?
"Our family has complete faith in Ted,'' McCaskey said.
Yeah, but many Chicagoland families who have watched Phillips preside over too many bad decisions in recent years don't share that faith. Knowing that, the Bears should have limited Phillips' involvement next to McCaskey. The more Phillips spoke, the more everybody wondered how involved the trained accountant would be in football decisions. The Bears also could have apologized to fans for the embarrassment that made their fan base as angry as Mrs. McCaskey. But overall during the 40-minute news conference, in McCaskey's defining moment as chairman, he delivered.
McCaskey finished an arduous task that began weeks ago and ended with Trestman issuing a classy prepared, one-paragraph statement and Emery appearing to impart words that included paying homage to singer Carrie Newcomer. To the end, Emery was unorthodox. When it mattered most, McCaskey was undeterred.
"We understand the magnitude of this decision,'' McCaskey said. "We understand Bears fans are counting on us to get it right.''
The most influential one he calls Mom.