Like Devin Hester, Roberto Garza and other players, Bears chairman George McCaskey struggled with his emotions when he met Lovie Smith on his last day as Bears 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.
"I think out of things that we're most grateful to Lovie for is that he didn't just teach our players football. He taught them how to become men. He came in [Monday]. He and I talked. I think it was an emotional situation."
Team president Ted Phillips called Monday "a sad day."
"When I talked to Lovie, there was a sense of sadness," Phillips said. "But there also was a sense of appreciation for what he brought to the club and that from him, too.
"There was a sense of appreciation that he had nine years to get the job done and I know that he failed in bringing a championship to the McCaskey family and that was a genuine feeling. From that standpoint, it is frustrating and it's sad. But at the same time, we're looking forward to moving forward."
McCaskey, the rest of his family and Phillips all stand with 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."
"They asked me good questions," Emery said. "As you all know, George has a past history as a lawyer so those questions were sharp and to the point. Good quality questions.
"At the end, both Ted and George said the same thing to me, 'Phil, it's your decision to make.' "
Emery dismissed Smith, who had one year remaining on his contract, because the Bears missed the playoffs five of the last six seasons and because his offenses were continually among the league's worst.
"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."
Emery said he'll have the finalists to replace Smith meet McCaskey and Phillips, but "at the end, the final decision will be mine."
"Our family has complete faith in him to make the right choice [for the next head coach] to get the Bears to a championship level," McCaskey said.