It’s Week 12 in the NFL and Chicago Bears fans are already looking toward the offseason.
To possible coaching changes, to draft picks, to next season, all because this season is just a dumpster fire of a turd burrito.
The Bears don’t have very many hits left to take with the possibility that the team could be without their starting quarterback for the rest of the season.
The situation appears bleak. The rebuilding process ahead for the franchise appears even bleaker but there is some hope.
The idea for this post came from a college buddy of mine. We were texting last night and he suggest a post of “how could the Bears duplicate the Cubs by hiring their own Theo (Epstein).”
I thought about it and came to the conclusion: do they already have their Theo in Ryan Pace?
Age aside (Ryan Pace is the youngest GM in the NFL at age 39, Epstein was famously named Red Sox GM at age 28), there are some similarities, but it’s difficult to cross-compare sports.
I will, however, point to an NFL GM that Pace should hope to replicate: Reggie McKenzie of the Oakland Raiders.
This is a subject I’ve touched on before and not even all that long ago. I wrote that article in September of 2015, just before the Bears hosted the Raiders.
McKenzie is the toast of the NFL. As I type this he’s being shown during the Monday Night Football broadcast as the team he helped assemble wins their eighth game and fourth in a row.
Going into the 2015 season some wondered if McKenzie was on the hot seat. The Raiders won just 11 games in his first three years at the helm under coach Dennis Allen. They had no quarterback, no real core.
Even McKenzie’s first two drafts were nothing special. But the Raiders stuck with him. They gave him a second chance at hiring a coach and he chose Jack Del Rio, a middling coach in his first go-around, analysts saw this as a bad indicator.
McKenzie all but ignored the QB position in his first two drafts, for a team that had no clear-cut answer at the most important position. He took Tyler Wilson in the fourth round in 2013 and Wilson subsequently became the highest-drafted player of the class to not make the opening day roster.
Then McKenzie turned it around with the 2014 draft. He found three starters with Oakland’s first three picks: Kahlil Mack, Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson. In 2015 he nabbed Amari Cooper.
McKenzie took a couple years to get his bearings, he made some mistakes along the way but ultimately he’s built a team that looks like it will be playoff bound in one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL.
Ryan Pace still has a chance to do that. He hasn’t drafted a QB in his first two drafts, it appears as though he may have picked the wrong head coach, but the McKenzie example shows that that shouldn’t be an automatic for a pink slip.
To bring it back to Theo again: the Cubs got worse before they got better. Epstein hired Dale Sveum and Rick Renteria before he landed Joe Maddon. Epstein inherited an awful roster that needed an infusion of young talent that took a couple of years to cultivate before it all came together and exploded into back-to-back playoff appearances and ultimately a World Series.
Pace has shown some promise in this area: he found Jordan Howard, who looks like a solid RB, Leonard Floyd appears to be a good player. Eddie Goldman has been very good when he’s been healthy. He got Cody Whitehair.
The next draft could be the one where he has his McKenzie moment: a top five pick and a glaring need at quarterback.
Pace’s Theo/McKenzie moment is coming. Do you think he has what it takes?