Just as he was working to wrangle himself out of a public-relations disaster, Chicago Bears Chairman George McCaskey created a new one by going after beloved former Bears center Olin Kreutz, an eight-time team captain and four-time winner of the team’s prestigious Brian Piccolo Award.
On a busy Monday for the franchise that began with the firing of general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy, McCaskey announced a streamlined organizational flow chart that will have the new GM reporting directly to him and not President/CEO Ted Phillips, who is spearheading the initiative to build a new stadium in Arlington Heights.
The search for a GM and coach, which McCaskey will lead, will begin immediately. But before he jumped into that, he chose a strange battle at an even stranger time when he insinuated that Kreutz lied while revealing last week on WSCR-AM 670 that the Bears offered him a part-time position in 2018 for $15 per hour. Former Bears offensive line coach Harry Hiestand verified that story.
“I’ve learned over the years to take just about anything that Olin says with a grain of salt,” McCaskey said more than 54 minutes into the 59-minute news conference. “And I look forward to hearing that story again. I hope he includes it in his Hall of Fame induction speech.”
Asked if the story was untrue, McCaskey paused before continuing: “That’s the way it is sometimes with Olin. You don’t get the whole story. Olin knows (what) the story is.”
Kreutz, a six-time Pro Bowl selection whom the Bears drafted in 1998, was angered by McCaskey’s assertion that his recounting was not accurate.
“I have such a good life because of football, the Bears, the McCaskeys, (former GM) Jerry Angelo, Ted Phillips,” Kreutz said. “It disappoints you. I have always had a feeling maybe George doesn’t like me, and I confirmed that today. That’s fine. I don’t worry about him not liking me.
“I wouldn’t say ‘hurt,’ but just think to yourself, you run an organization and you say that about a player who, the last time I played for the Bears, I tore a Lisfranc ligament in my foot and I finished the game. What the (heck) are you doing?”
Kreutz suffered that injury during the NFC championship game loss to the Green Bay Packers after the 2010 season. That turned out to be the last game the Bears played before McCaskey replaced his brother Michael as team chairman.
“I went to (offensive line coach Mike) Tice — I’m a free agent after the year, I’m in my 13th year, (Jay) Cutler had already checked out that game — and I said, ‘I think I just broke my foot,’” Kreutz said. “Tice says, ‘We have no other center. Can you finish the game?’ You do all that … and that is the disappointment to me.
“George hasn’t even talked to me in 11 years, and he’s going to say everything I say, he takes with a grain of a salt? You don’t even know me anymore. You’re assuming I am this guy and you have no idea. I coach little league football. I train kids. I do all these things and now all of a sudden I am a liar? And not just this story — everything I say, you take with a grain of salt?”
Hiestand told the Tribune he had a written proposal from Pace with loose details of what tasks Kreutz would perform, which he presented to Kreutz at a Lake Forest hotel. The offer was for $15 an hour.
“I went to Ryan and Matt because Olin had come to training camp at the beginning and spent a couple days there with (former line coach) Tony Wise helping the guys,” said Hiestand, who was hired last week as Notre Dame’s line coach. “The players loved Olin being around. I went to Ryan and Matt and I said, ‘How could we involve Olin on a daily basis where he was around for player hours?’
“I knew a full-time thing would be too much for him and his family, but maybe he could come for player hours and be available to go on the practice field. They were both like, ‘What an awesome idea.’ That’s exactly what they said.
“So Ryan said, ‘Let me think about it and put something together and I’ll get back to you,’ and he got back to me with that. I don’t have a copy of it anymore, but he had it written out, in general what (Kreutz) would be doing. I went and met with Olin and presented it to him. He wanted to do it. He was hoping to do it. Once that came back at $15 an hour, he couldn’t justify it. Olin wasn’t making fun of them. He was stunned. I was like, ‘I don’t know these guys that well. I’ve only been here half a year.’
“This isn’t an attack on George at all. George always treated me well. I’m sure it never went to him because it was such a small deal. Over the last couple years, they don’t love Olin anymore because he is critical of them in the media, but so is everybody else. It’s not like he’s the only one. I just want there to be accuracy to this. George said that publicly and it’s Olin’s reputation and that’s just not right.”
Kreutz said he connected with Pace on Monday to make sure his memory hadn’t twisted the facts 3½ years later.
“I said, ‘I am just calling you to make sure I am not crazy that there was an offer of $15 per hour made,’” Kreutz said. “And Ryan said, ‘Yeah, that was the standard offer at the time.’ He kept saying there was a misunderstanding. He thought I wanted to come in and hang out, so he made a standard offer that they give to people that are coming to the camp to work. He said he should have called me and told me more about it.
“Ryan said obviously George never heard about it. The problem is when you don’t call people to check on something and you just go out there call someone a liar.”
Perhaps there was a disconnect between how much work Kreutz was willing to do and how involved Pace and Nagy wanted him to be. Whatever the case, Kreutz learned for the first time Monday that the Bears considered it a misunderstanding. What’s indisputable to Kreutz and Hiestand is there was an offer in writing for $15 an hour.
A misunderstanding, if that’s what it was, now has turned into something more sinister for Kreutz, whose four Piccolo Awards are the most in team history. All McCaskey had to do was respond that he planned to look into the matter. Instead, he questioned the integrity of one of the more popular former players, whose voice many fans turn to in order to understand the franchise’s ongoing struggles.
“The stories I am telling they know are true,” Kreutz said. “Now they have to go and say all the stories I tell aren’t true? I’m sorry, guys, most of the stories I tell, there are actually articles written about them. There are actual guys out there like Harry who will tell you he gave me the offer. I’m not lying about this. Why the (heck) would I make up something like this? That is nuts.”
It’s crazier than offering Kreutz $15 an hour in the first place.
Source: Berkshire mont