Like Devin Hester, Roberto Garza and other players, Bears chairman George McCaskey struggled with his emotions when he met with Lovie Smith on his last day as coach.
“It was very difficult,” McCaskey said Tuesday. “Our family has high regard for Lovie. . . . He’s been high character all the way through. He’s represented the Bears very well, and he’s a good coach and an outstanding man.”
Team president Ted Phillips called Monday “a sad day.”
But McCaskey, the rest of his family and Phillips all stood behind general manager Phil Emery’s decision to fire Smith after nine seasons. Emery consulted with McCaskey and Phillips before firing Smith. McCaskey described them as “several good discussions.”
“As you all know, George has a past history as a lawyer, so those questions were sharp and to the point — quality questions,” Emery said. “At the end, both Ted and George said the same thing to me, ‘Phil, it’s your decision to make.’ ”
Emery essentially dismissed Smith because the Bears missed the playoffs five of the last six seasons and continued to struggle offensively.
“There’s an urgency to win every year,” McCaskey said. “It’s extremely important to our family. The Bears are all about greatness, and we need to continue that tradition.”
Emery was hired with the understanding that Smith would be in charge for at least one more season. Neither McCaskey nor Phillips expressed regret for holding off on a coaching change under a new GM.
McCaskey and Phillips said money won’t be an issue when it comes to hiring a new coach.
“We’re going to do whatever it takes to hire the right guy,” Phillips said.
McCaskey, who spoke to receiver Brandon Marshall on Monday, said the players’ emotional responses to Smith’s firing were “perfectly understandable.”
“He’s a great guy and a great coach,” McCaskey said. “I thought it was encouraging to see how the players were sticking up for him.”