Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported the Chicago Bears are likely to be “big players” in the quarterback market this off-season but in their history, and particularly under Ryan Pace, that has typically been a double-edged sword. Can the Bears even solve their quarterback woes without severely hindering the future?
Good and Bad to Chicago Bears Being ‘Big Players’
Always Gets His Man
In six years on the job, one thing can be said in defense of Ryan Pace. That is that, regardless of the particulars, he always lands his target. Or at least, that is the sense over the years. There hasn’t been a time when he’s identified a weakness and didn’t address it vigorously in the off-season. In recent years it’s been the running back tight end rooms.
But Pace started with the defense; albeit with the ill-fated signing of Pernell McPhee. He also pulled off the Khalil Mack trade. Say what you want but the trade was roundly applauded at the time despite the hefty price tag. Also, not only has Mack been a Pro Bowler every year, he was Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded EDGE defender last season.
The Mack trade is easily Pace’s biggest and most successful deal. It’s still indicative of his aggressiveness when targeting a player he deems an asset. He’s operated largely counterintuitive to the reputation the organization has had of not spending the requisite amount to compete. Unfortunately, that’s where Pace has far too often gotten himself into trouble.
The thing about that “ill-fated” deal for McPhee is that it isn’t the anomaly, but rather the norm. Pace’s trade for Mitchell Trubisky is why any of this is even a discussion when you peel away all the layers of the onion. You can say he let the offensive line fail. He did. You can criticize his opting to strengthen what was already a strength in the pass rush instead of helping his offense more. Again, you’d be right to do so.
It all boils down to missing on the quarterback position with the third-overall pick in the NFL draft. A whiff of that magnitude, as we see, sets a franchise back some five years. Kevin White? He was a bust but it cost nothing to take him. Leonard Floyd? The trade up was a bit much, and very telling, but the former Georgia Bulldog just recorded a career-best 10.5 sacks for the Los Angeles Rams.
The only other first-rounder that we can compare the Trubisky pick to is Roquan Smith who is coming off a Pro Bowl-caliber season. In totality, Pace’s evaluations are probably closer to 50 percent than the 25 percent it seems like. But from the overpay for Floyd and moving up for Trubisky in the draft to giving away draft capital for Nick Foles and doling out a bag to Robert Quinn, he clearly doesn’t have a good understanding of what market value is. Even Jimmy Graham, for as productive as he was, is still highly overpaid.
Collaboration a Four-Letter Word
We heard Bears management use the term “collaborate” and all of its many forms to the point many fans became familiar with the term ‘semantic satiation’. They weren’t totally wrong, though. Jay-Z has a song called “American Dreamin” in which he raps about planning how to get rich as a youth. In one bar he states, “Nothing wrong with the aim, just gotta change the target”. That’s Ryan Pace. No general manager will move more of the heavens or earth to acquire his target.
So “collaboration” with his head coach and (hopefully to a far lesser extent) Ted Phillips and George McCaskey isn’t necessarily a negative. We all know by now that a good part of the reason Trubisky was ever a Bears is because Pace worked so alone his head coach at the time, John Fox, who wanted Deshaun Watson or Jamal Adams, had no idea.
Brass was selling a lot to it’s fans in the end of season press conference but nothing more than the fact that Pace would be taking input (and maybe even direction to some extent) from Matt Nagy. Some of that is surely because their fates are undoubtedly intertwined but also because, ya know, it works.
Staff Parting Like the Red Sea
One of the tell-tale signs of a sinking ship is all the rats bail. That isn’t to slant the Bears assistants, but the mass exodus is telling. Ted Monachino became the latest but he joins a slew over the past two years of promising staffers who moved on. One has to hope their respective stocks don’t explode like Brandon Staley, the new head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers.
They’ll talk up Sean Desai, their new defensive coordinator. It certainly is a positive that he was in Chicago under Vic Fangio, perhaps leading to a return to the aggressive, ball-hawking ways of 2018. But a team that supposedly has postseason aspirations and beyond going with an unproven defensive coordinator is rarely by choice.
If anyone was uncertain of just how hot the seats of Pace and Nagy were, the league is telling you. Free agency could continue to bear out this notion. It could be tough for the Bears to land a quality free agent with the doubt over whether or not the staff will be the same the following season. Especially after the way they’ve played the Allen Robinson contract situation.
Being “Big Players” Not Always Good for Chicago Bears
It is encouraging to hear the Bears will, once again, try to get the most important position in football right. Knowing that he won’t freeze his head coach out this time is also a plus. But the Bears sit, with the 20th pick in the NFL Draft. That is a recipe for disaster if Pace is left to his own devices. And, for all the hope we’ve attached to his working with Nagy, it was the head coach that wanted Foles. We see how that worked out. Being “big players” sounds nice but it’s rarely worked out for the Chicago Bears.
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