The Chicago Bears lost more than the NFC Championship game this season. The team that had ousted the Seahawks from the playoffs also lost a member of its football family on Sunday – vice president Tim McCaskey, who died after a 17-month battle with cancer. He was 65.
The Bears’ loss was felt around the league, as well, because the “F” in NFL could stand for their family. Tim was the second oldest of Ed and Virginia McCaskey’s 11 children, and Virginia is the eldest child of George Halas, the legendary Bears coach and owner. Halas became known as “Papa Bear” during his dominant reign that began in 1920 when was player/coach/owner of the Decatur Staleys, who became the Chicago Staleys in 1921 and then the Chicago Bears in 1922; included three stints as coach of the Chicago Bears (1933-42, 1946-55 and 1958-67); and didn’t end until 1983, when he died of cancer at the age of 88.
How influential was Halas? The NFC Championship trophy – like the one the Seahawks won in 2005 and is now on display in the lobby at Virginia Mason Athletic Center – is named after him. Need more? The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, is on George Halas Drive.
It was under that large shadow that McCaskey and his brothers – Michael, George, Brian, Ed and Pat, who are on the Bears’ board of directors – moved on without one of the most revered figures in league history. Tim McCaskey became the Bears’ vice president in 1993, after a four-year, part-time affiliation with the team.
Tim McCaskey left the heavy lifting when it came to matters of the team, and its place in the league, to those who were hired by the family – president and CEO Ted Phillips and general manager Jerry Angelo.
But John Mullin, a longtime beat writer for the Bears, remembered Tim McCaskey in his piece on CSNChicago.com with this anecdote that McCaskey once shared with him:
“After the Bears won Super Bowl XX, Michael McCaskey was celebrating with everyone else afterwards. Trouble was, Michael was being your basic older brother, had the Lombardi Trophy, and he wasn’t letting it get too far out of hand. Tim wanted a piece of that action.
“So Tim waited till Michael had to put the trophy down to use the restroom. Gone. Tim spirited it away behind some curtains for some pictures with his family. Michael was frantic searching for the lost Lombardi Trophy.
“When Tim was done, he poked his head out through the curtains to be sure the coast was clear. He spied a backup player walking by and called him over.
“ ‘Do you know me?’ Tim asked the player.
“ ‘No,’ the player answered.
“ ‘Good!’ Tim said, quickly thrust the trophy through the curtains and into the hands of the slack-jawed player, and ducked back behind the curtains.
“That was Tim.”