When Ryan Pace took over as the general manager of the Chicago Bears in 2015, he was only 37 years old.
Now at age 43, Pace is entering Year 6 of running the show in Chicago. He earned the Executive of the Year award by the Sporting News in 2018 becoming the third Bears general manager to win the award after George Halas (1956) and Michael McCaskey (1985).
In his five seasons in charge, the Bears have gone 34-46. The last two years have been much better alongside head coach Matt Nagy compared to the three prior under lackadaisical John Fox as Nagy has posted a 20-12 record, with a 12-4 showing in 2018.
All in all, there isn’t endless confidence in Pace around the fanbase due to his misses in the draft, free agency and of course, the famous decision to trade for Mitch Trubisky in 2017 over the likes of NFL stars Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. The blockbuster trade for star defensive end Khalil Mack in 2018 was certainly a gamechanger but it was also a hefty investment with two first round picks sent to the Raiders as they signed Mack to a six-year, $141 million deal ($90 million in guaranteed money).
However, Pace’s contract runs through the 2021 season and he has made enough good moves to outweigh the bad.
“We are not just collecting athletes,” Pace said during his introductory press conference on Jan. 14, 2015. “We are acquiring football players who fit the Chicago Bears. There will be a major emphasis on character, toughness, instincts and intelligence.”
He started things off by trading wide receiver Brandon Marshall to the Jets and proceeded to draft Kevin White with the No. 7 overall pick. White is now out of the league after some devastating injuries ruined his skillset. A year later, Pace took linebacker Leonard Floyd No. 9 overall. Floyd is with the Rams now after the Bears rescinded his fifth-year option last week. He had 18.5 sacks in four seasons with just seven over the last two years.
Trubisky was taken a year later with the No. 2 overall pick after trading away the No. 3 pick, a third and fourth round selection to San Francisco. Linebacker Roquan Smith has developed into a very talented leader quickly after going eighth overall in 2018. The Bears had no first round pick in 2019 and won’t again in this year’s draft (we will get to that later).
Free agency has been fair at times to Pace with his additions of defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, wide receiver Allen Robinson, linebacker Danny Trevathan, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and cornerback Prince Amukamara. However, there have been some ugly signings with big money including the likes of quarterback Mike Glennon, linebacker Pernell McPhee, tight end Dion Sims, tight end Trey Burton, kicker Cody Parkey and wide receiver Markus Wheaton.
Safety Eddie Jackson (4th round), defensive lineman Eddie Goldman (2nd round), running back Tarik Cohen (4th round), guard Cody Whitehair (2nd round), defensive lineman Bilal Nichols (5th round), running back Jordan Howard (4th round), linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (4th round) and safety Adrian Amos (5th round) have all been steals (the last three names are off the team).
It remains to be seen if wide receiver Anthony Miller (2nd round), center James Daniels (2nd round), running back David Montgomery (3rd round), linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe (4th round) and wide receiver Javon Wims (7th round) will ever be consistent standouts. However, it is clear that 2017 second round pick, tight end Adam Shaheen is not what he was labeled to be “Baby Gronk” and the Bears need help at that position.
The reality is this, Pace has done many nice things in the mid-rounds of the draft and had some positive hits in free agency. Mack was a costly gift who has boosted a top 10 defense that projects to be really good once again this season. Cutting fan favorite and clutch kicker Robbie Gould four years ago is and will always be a boneheaded decision. But, Pace ultimately attached his job to Trubisky and this is the season where we will see how this plays out with veteran Nick Foles now in the mix after coming over last week in a trade with Jacksonville.
Glennon was a waste of time and money in 2017 as Trubisky was sheltered and protected. Then, Nagy and Pace let Trubisky loose as he ran often and was put in good situations in a high flying and dynamic offense. Then, this past season the offense looked like it had basically no playmakers, no run game and shoddy offensive line play and of course, Trubisky was at the forefront of the criticism.
Was Trubisky worthy of the blame?
Here are his numbers from the last two seasons.
2019: 326-of-516, 63.2%, 3,138 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 83.0 passer rating; 48 rushes, 193 yards, 2 touchdowns
2018: 289-of-434, 66.6%, 3,223 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 95.4 passer rating; 68 rushes, 421 yards, 3 touchdowns
Owning a 23-18 record and a 85.8 passer rating in his three-year career doesn’t look pretty for Trubisky but 12 of those games came under a lost offense led by Fox and company in 2017. In 15 of his last 29 games, Trubisky has thrown an interception with eight last season compared to seven in 2018. He has eight career multiple interception games including six in the last two seasons.
I may have an outsider’s perspective, but I still am very confident that Trubisky is a steady enough quarterback to win games for this Bears team. I thought the playcalling a season ago hurt the perception of his true abilities. Having the shoulder injury certainly kept him back from running as much as he effectively can, but with little help from the run game, basically, no tight ends and very little consistency outside of Robinson, Trubisky’s life in this offense was hard.
The Bears need more weapons, they need a better push up front and Montgomery needs to be looked upon as a lead back early and often in games.
DE Robert Quinn
QB Nick Foles
TE Jimmy Graham
CB Artie Burns
LB Barkevious Mingo
DL Brent Urban
LB Leonard Floyd
S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
CB Prince Amukamara
WR Taylor Gabriel
LB Nick Kwiatkoski
DL Nick Williams
The game is won in the trenches and the Bears are set up well defensively at all levels, outside of cornerback and safety depth. But there are stars all over the field and I absolutely loved the signing of Quinn to pair him with Mack, Hicks, Robertson-Harris, Nichols and Goldman. The Bears are deep up front defensively. Brent Urban is also an underrated signing on Monday, he was really good against the run in nine games last season and can slow down offenses at his 6’7″ frame.
Offensively, Pace knew he tied his ultimate fate to Trubisky three years ago and so far it has been a rocky road. I know a ton of people wanted the Bears to grab Teddy Bridgewater in free agency, but for $21 million a year, I’d much rather have Trubisky competing with a veteran who knows this offense like Foles there making him better.
The way Montgomery, Cohen and even Cordarelle Patterson are used will be crucial for Nagy’s offense. Wide receiver help needs to come and so does tight end (Graham is a horrible signing no matter how you spin it), but the Bears crave playmakers and consistency. Guard would be my top priority in the draft next month since the wide receiver and tight end class is deep.
The Bears hold these picks: 2nd round – No. 43, 2nd round – No. 50, 5th round – No. 163, 6th round – No. 196, 6th round – No. 200 and 7th round – No. 233).
The depth isn’t bad with this Bears group outside of a few positions listed above, but the topic of Trubisky vs. Foles will only become more dominant with the NFL season nearing a return and no sports currently taking place due to the COVID-19 affecting the entire country.
It is very easy to blame one player and in football, the quarterback seems to always be at fault (unless he’s great like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning), but instead of comparing Trubisky to Mahomes and Watson (which I understand why you would), how about put Pace and Nagy up to the task to try to help him the best way possible.
Regardless of what happens in the 2020 season, I think it is important to give Trubisky a few more weapons outside of Robinson and Cohen, a true running game and then we can see how this thing unfolds. Montgomery had only seven games with 15 or more carries. This offense needs balance and if they can get it, I think you’ll see the Trubisky of 2018 and not the Trubisky of 2019, which would mean more wins, less time on the field for the defense and a legitimate chance to make a deep playoff run.