Chicago Bears fans got the relative shock of the season when The Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs reported (subscription required) that word around Halas Hall was that Ryan Pace would return for an eighth season at the helm. This even as it has become as apparent as ever that Matt Nagy will not get the same treatment for a fifth season.
There is a caveat for Pace. His continuing employment could be in a new role that could even mean he resides over football operations.
This set off red flags instantly among Bears fans and media alike.
Ryan Pace Will Survive the Chicago Bears ‘Overhaul’ Through Absence
How could one stay when the other has to go after they sat up at the podium during their end-of-season press conference and preached “collaboration”? In what way does a general manager get to fire two head coaches, miss on several first-round picks, and overspend in free agency scream ‘promotion’?
The answer is really quite simple and it’s one people have constantly been on Pace (and to a lesser extent, team chairman George McCaskey) about for quite some time.
It is because of his absence from the spotlight.
Pace has become a master of appearing twice a year, saying even less despite his word count than Nagy, and returning back into the hallowed halls of Halas. He didn’t start that way. There are multiple articles throughout the months with quotes and takes from Pace regarding Jay Cutler, John Fox, etc back going back to 2015.
For whatever reason, that changed.
The embattled executive now makes fewer than a handful of appearances per year, in a controlled environment.
Stories of the bromance shared by the powers that be for the Bears won’t appease the fan base. It’s a base that has grown tired of holding onto personnel because management likes them despite not producing on the field (which is puzzling on its own).
Instead, Nagy gets shown the door and the Bears will live with the ramifications.
What It Means
Most will tell you that keeping Pace will severely limit any general manager (assuming he is promoted) or coaching candidates. And that it prevents them from truly undergoing the “overhaul” we’ve been hearing rumors of. Simply put, how can Pace be involved in the process of selecting his successor?
With rumors of candidates like Jim Harbaugh having interest, having any block to their control over the football decision-making could be a turn-off.
Especially if they feel like the guy they are reporting to isn’t good at his job.
The head coaching search could yield better results but it’s not given. It seemed as though Nagy had carte blanche over the roster towards the (presumed) end here. But there are those who will point out Pace’s draft and free agency track record as handcuffing the coach.
However, Robert Quinn just broke the franchise single-season sack record. He did it without Khalil Mack opposite him for much of the season too. The rookie offensive linemen also showed some of the things but the jury is still out. The secondary was severely undermanned but still underperformed this season
Again, this could be put back on the head coach. This is where the biggest hiccup arises.
Not many coaches want to come into a situation knowing the guy above them will toss them under the bus so readily after preaching togetherness
Remember, Nagy has been answering questions about his job security since a report came out just before Thanksgiving. The report said that he’d been told he was out which he denied in no uncertain terms. It reached a point where George McCaskey came to his coach’s “defense” to call the report false. A similar report came out last week. Nagy flatly denied it again but with no such refute from McCaskey, Pace, et al.
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) January 7, 2022
In the End
In this case, Justin Fields’ presence creates a duality of sorts. His talent would entice most coaches. But that same level of talent probably has as much to do with Pace’s possible return as anything else. Interestingly, to a man, the Bears have come out and voiced their support for Nagy as a person.
Pace has received no such platitudes.
That could be because they genuinely don’t like him. But it is more likely because they don’t really know him. In many ways, that should be a good thing. It should prevent holding onto players too long due to sentimentality over their production (sound familiar?).
The problem is it hasn’t worked that way for Pace. He has often been the victim of bidding against himself and overpaying.
Truth be told, no one should be surprised if Pace does, in fact, return. This is the same organization that has kept Ted Phillips around for reasons that must not include the product on the field. Putting Pace in his role stands to shift that paradigm. Just not in a way that makes sense to most on the outside.
After all, even if they haven’t gotten enough wins yet, as Phillips said at that fateful presser last January, they already had “everything else” and now might have their quarterback. That’s progress, right?
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