Meh grade for the Bears' hire of Ryan Pace as GM, after two days of reflection

Meh grade for the Bears' hire of Ryan Pace as GM, after two days of reflection
Ryan Pace addresses the media

Back in 2012, when the Bears hired Phil Emery as their shiny new general manager, I graded the hire as a 'C' in my article for Bleacher Report.

The Bears failed to make the playoffs in any of Emery's three seasons, so you could argue the hire was an 'F' but that would be viewing the hire with the benefit of hindsight. At the time of the hire, though, I was actually one of the very few people who did not like the selection of Emery (for exhibit A, see the scathing rebuttal comments in my grading article).

Now we have a new Bears GM. I didn't post a grade right away because I wanted to mull it over in my mind a bit before opining. And in my mind, my grade for the selection of Pace is...a 'C+'. That is, I do like the pick a wee bit better than the Emery pick but not much better.

Pros

The main thing is that Pace comes from an organization with a general recent history of winning. The Saints even won a Super Bowl when Pace was part of the organization. This is definitely an improvement over the hiring of Emery, who came from the Kansas City Chiefs, a team that you do not equate with winning.

Unfortunately, this is the only pro I can find for this hire.

The initial reports about Pace were all about his being at Eastern Illinois with Tony Romo, that Saints GM Mickey Loomis and Saints head coach Sean Payton had nice things to say about him, and that he is the youngest GM in the league at this time. In other words, red herring information.

Cons

For one thing, we have no idea how big of a role he had as Saints Director of Player Personnel. How much was his input valued? How much say did he have in the Saints' personnel moves?

Even if we presume Pace had the biggest voice in the Saints' personnel moves, is that a positive? The Saints' last two drafts were the following:

2014: Brandin Cooks, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Khairi Fortt, Vinnie Sunseri, Ronald Powell, Tavon Rooks
2013: Kenny Vaccaro, Terron Armstead, John Jenkins, Kenny Stills, Rufus Johnson

The jury is still out on these picks but early indications are underwhelming. Cooks, for example, was reportedly tearing it up in training camp but was mostly mediocre in the regular season before he got hurt, especially when compared to fellow first-round wide receiver rookies taken after him like Kelvin Benjamin and Jordan Matthews...and produced somewhat similarly to second round rookie wideout Davante Adams even though Adams had the misfortune to play behind two prolific wide receivers in Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.

Second, Loomis and Payton said positive things about Pace, but really, did you expect anything else? The league's executive ranks are a small fraternity of people and it's rare to find any bad-mouthing among them. Remember, people said positive things about Emery too at the time of Emery's hiring.

Finally, while the Saints have had recent sustained success while Pace was employed, how much of that is truly because of Pace? How much did Loomis himself contribute? How much did Payton's coaching contribute? It's hard to say–which is why it's hard to be too enthusiastic with the current level of information we have about Pace.

Other questions

Will the Bears really ever get better as long as team president Ted Phillips is around? Phillips, as you may recall, insisted back in 2012 on hiring a general manager who could not fire Lovie Smith right away. Such presidential dysfunction continues even to this day, as the Bears were interviewing head coaching candidates before hiring their general manager. What kind of organization interviews head coaching candidates without their general manager present in the interview? You can't help but view any Phillips hire with automatic suspicion and trepidation.

Also, we still don't know Pace's philosophy in how he plans to turn the team around. At least Emery laid out his philosophy at his introductory press conference (which boiled down to coveting players with height and size). Pace was more vague, saying he would be "collecting football players that fit the Chicago Bears" (whatever that means). Pace did say he would not be "just collecting athletes," an apparent jab at Emery's free agent blitz last year, but then he also spouted the same ol' line as Emery that he would be looking for "character, toughness, instincts and intelligence." It seems like Pace thinks the draft is most important but Emery also said the same thing (and for that matter, neither Pace's Saints nor Emery's Chiefs had a sterling draft track record prior to their hire). So at the end of the day, I don't have a handle on what Pace's blueprint is for fixing the Bears.

Bottom line

There are simply too many questions to be overly optimistic. The only reason this grade isn't lower is that Pace comes from the relatively successful Saints organization. That said, I honestly hope that Pace can turn the Bears around. As a lifelong Bears fan, I hope I'm wrong about this 'C' grade and hope that Pace in hindsight was an 'A' pick. We'll just have to wait and see.

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Filed under: Sports

Tags: chicago bears, ryan pace

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