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Pace Shares Blame for the Fox Era

Some believe that Ryan Pace was saddled with John Fox instead of selecting him outright. If true, it shows a level of dysfunction beyond what fans already fear.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Speculation has abounded regarding the role Ryan Pace had in selecting John Fox as the head coach of the Bears. For example, Adam Jahns recently suggested that because Chicago ran parallel interviews for head coaches and general managers, and because Accorsi might have played a role in selecting John Fox, that: “Pace deserves a chance to find a new coach if he wants to take that course of action. The organization owes Pace that opportunity — minus an adviser and its earlier work on candidates.”

I disagree wholeheartedly.

In fact, if this speculation is accurate Pace agreed to accept a head coach that Bears ownership and Accorsi forced on him, then it’s a bad look for everybody. It is, in fact, one of the worst possible looks. Let’s see what this says about each of the parties involved.

The McCaskeys: This suggests that the McCaskeys actually handcuffed their own general manager twice in a row. After first creating the awful “hybrid” situation where the Emery had to keep Lovie Smith (leading to a 10-6 season that ended in a firing anyway) before he could hire his own guy (the disastrous and spineless--though victorious in Canada--Marc Trestman), this scenario has them repeating the same mistake with their new hire by creating another hybrid, where Pace is saddled with a coach that he did not select and whose vision and philosophy diverged. In other words, they look like micromanaging buffoons.

Ernie Accorsi: How does this scenario say anything good about Accorsi? Maybe it suggests that Accorsi sat back and said “hey, this kid would be good, but not so good he can actually be trusted with the biggest decision of the entire job,” which seems pretty tepid. That sort of indecision can be found without a consultant. Or, alternately, it represents cronyism at its worst, with Accorsi saying “I know I’m supposed to be an independent adviser, here, but I’m going to pull some strings for my buddy, John.” Maybe, just maybe, it suggests incompetence or guesswork, something like “I have no idea how this is going to turn out, so I’m hedging my bets by throwing a bunch of stuff at the wall and hoping something works.” Apologists might say that it actually suggests a balanced, careful approach. However, if so then this is a so-called balanced move against conventional wisdom in the abstract (i.e. a GM and a coach need to be on the same page) that has turned out to be disastrous in application.

Ryan Pace: If Pace was willing to take the job of GM without full say over his own coaching staff, then he allowed his own start to be compromised. He compromised his own future. If this is true, then Pace accepted a harder job for himself, and either he was smart enough to know what he was getting himself in for (and therefore he accepted part of the responsibility for its failure) or he was not smart enough to realize it, and therefore he was not up to the challenge he was handed.

Realistically, it suggests that Pace was too craven to stand up for his own decision-making during the most important job interview of his life. He caved to pressure before the job even got started. Yikes.

John Fox: If Pace was influenced to hire John Fox, either indirectly or as a condition of his hire, then it suggests that instead of earning the job on merit, that Fox gained the job due to equivocation or hesitation on the part of the consultation/ownership team (he’s the token ‘old guy’ thrown in as a way of balancing the ticket, so to speak) or because of outright cronyism. I would hope that he was ignorant of this fact, because if he took the job knowing he was unwelcome, then he becomes a sort of coaching scavenger, knowingly feeding off the husk of a franchise like some sort of NFC-scouring hyena. I don’t have much respect for Fox right now, but I would at least like to think that whatever flaws he might have, he has more integrity than that.

Others might disagree, but the only way I think Pace deserves a chance to hire a second head coach is if he made this mistake on his own and if he can learn from it. Anything less than that suggests that the franchise is in an even worse place than fans fear.