Bears' decision to sign Ray McDonald backfires

The Chicago Bears took an unnecessary risk in signing Ray McDonald, and they got burned because of it.

That’s the only way to describe what happened Monday, after the Bears released the troubled defensive lineman following his Monday morning arrest in California on domestic violence and child endangerment charges.

This wasn’t a football decision. This was a character decision.

Sure, McDonald is an effective 3-4 defensive lineman who understands Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s scheme, but McDonald turns 31 in September. He would have made Chicago’s defense better, but McDonald is not exactly entering the prime of his career.

Plus, the December sexual assault case against McDonald remains open.

Why not wait until that investigation was closed to offer McDonald a one-year deal?

Were the Bears worried about losing McDonald to another team? So what? In recent years, they have learned the hard way that character matters in an NFL locker room. Coming off a horrible 5-11 season, the new regime should have been more sensitive to improving the culture in the locker room, regardless of whether Fangio and other coaches knew McDonald in San Francisco.

This is embarrassing on many levels, but at least the Bears released McDonald quickly.

There was simply no way for the Bears to allow McDonald back into the building after the veteran made the team’s front office and chairman George McCaskey look foolish for supporting him.

Remember, McCaskey initially declined the front office’s request to sign McDonald because the defensive lineman -- cut by the 49ers in December -- had been the subject of two high-profile criminal investigations in the span of four months last year.

Unfortunately, McCaskey changed his mind after a face-to-face meeting with McDonald and a phone call with McDonald’s parents.

“He talked about growing up and his parents and his playing career,” McCaskey said after the club gave McDonald a one-year deal. “And then he talked about these incidents, which have become public knowledge, and he walked me through each one. And I don't want to get too much into the particulars. I just want to give you a sense of the conversation. And I was impressed with how sincere he was and how motivated he is.

"He understands, I think, that he could have well been facing the end of his football career. And he loves football. And he wants that career to continue, so I was impressed with his motivation.”

McCaskey wasn’t the only member of the organization to publicly endorse McDonald.

Fangio seemed to hint three weeks ago that McDonald received unfair coverage from the media, which helped sway public opinion.

“Well, [the accusations are] unsettling,” Fangio said. “He put himself in some situations that he didn’t need to be in. But the fact of the matter is he was never charged with anything. The headlines, I think, looked worse than what actually happened, but they happened. He made a mistake putting himself in those positions for that to happen. But ultimately, he was not charged with anything, so we felt good about it here.”

In the future, McCaskey needs to trust his gut.