Have you ever been so taken aback by someone's verbal crutch? You know, a word or phrase that someone you speak or listen to on a regular basis uses entirely too often, to the point of almost nauseating cliche? It comes to the point where one notices the tick, can't let it escape their mind, and where you roll your eyes when the tangible action doesn't match the boastfulness.
For three years, that's been Bears general manager Ryan Pace, who is always "fired up" about anything of consequence - minimal or substantial - that happens at Halas Hall under his watch. He's a man who never hesitates on delivering the most grandiose promises when given the opportunity. Pace, in essence, has turned the phrase into a meme given how empty some of his assurances have been. He's a politician assuaging the masses, while biding his time at a greater idea not many envision in the long-term.
Before last year's free agency in a press conference, Pace espoused how the Bears were armed to the teeth in cap space to take advantage of the open market. "We’re top five in cap space this year in free agency. With that comes major, major responsibility."
The Bears ended up spending an abhorrent amount of money (albeit with little commitment) on Mike Glennon, Marcus Cooper, Markus Wheaton, and Dion Sims among others in one of Chicago's worst free agency classes ever. No hyperbole in that statement intended. Most of last year's free agent additions in all likelihood will not return sans Prince Amukamara, though. In one door, and out the other.
Sure, there's the argument that Pace didn't fully intend to go out on an impactful shopping spree last March because it wasn't a part of his overarching plan, and because he didn't want to unnecessarily hamstring the team in cap hell. That's all in optimistic theory given where the Bears stand now on a solid foundation that Pace has built. The proof is in the pudding, of which there isn't even any pudding (free agency) at this juncture until he proves otherwise.
Of course, regardless of the eventual outcome, Pace was still fired up about those free agent discounts.
On a wider scale, Pace discussed and was even adamant about how the Bears "were never going to be in this position again" regarding a high draft slot following the disastrous, franchise worse 3-13 2016 season last January.
A year later, the Bears sit with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Now former head coach John Fox and his cronies were allowed to return for another year to help facilitate that similar draft position given their egregious mismanagement of Mitchell Trubisky and most of the Bears' promising youth. Otherwise known as being poor at coaching. Which was helped to be facilitated by Pace.
Of course, regardless of that eventual outcome, Pace was still fired up about using that top draft edge to the best of his ability. It's what he does, it's who he is. The eternal optimist with the weight of the Bears' organization now fully on his shoulders - full stop - even if it can be construed as merely putting on a happy face for gathered media contingents looking to skewer him for these previous failures. Previous failures that have led to a minimal 14 wins in his three seasons as lead dog.
That brings the fired up Pace's modus operandi and Bears career into focus, into the present moment. Because for the first time, at least on the rare occasions he publicly speaks, Pace somehow managed to contain his excitement regarding recent strings he pulled. Those strings being the hiring of the young, innovator and former Chiefs offensive coordinator, Matt Nagy.
When introducing Nagy last Monday, Pace didn't utter his famed phrase once. The onus fell on his football married counterpart Nagy instead, who was "so fired up" when discussing his plans for the Bears after being unveiled to the public. Pace, to his credit from a prepared statement, kept his cool and let his hand-picked head coach do all the talking.
That's for good reason as Pace surely understands what's more important now as a grizzled veteran. As someone who is expected to deliver results, for even his eternal "apologists", and soon. The time for Pace puffing his chest out as a portrayed boy wonder general manager is over in Chicago. There will be no sympathy for falling short. No one will care about what he says at a podium until the Bears themselves back him up on the field (much in the mold of Nagy's impressive opening statements, for what it's worth). Only outright deep lost faith, as well as further manifested pessimism in an increasingly frustrated fan base and media cycle alike, will continue should Pace not deliver.
The plan for the Bears Pace has tried to enact, which has been slowly dripped out into motion over the past several years, must now take it's course.
What is that plan exactly?
Well, it all lies on Pace's two golden geese, which in this case is certainly an accurate distinction. Two golden geese, one a hopeful budding superstar, and the other a head coach looking to make his mark on a league that could desperately use an injection of energy and good faith. The fate of Pace's career as a general manager, and everything he's ever been fired up about, rests on the responsibility of these two men since they both have an equal say in the success or downfall of the Bears in the near future.
Despite the extended wait time it took to acquire him, Pace has his young quarterback he hopes will become the face of the franchise in Trubisky. The quarterback he was and still is relentlessly criticized for panic trading a few mid-round selections to acquire last April. Of whom we'll never know the full story as to what other NFL teams (if any) were ready to swoop in to take Pace's meticulously evaluated guy.
It doesn't matter what happened on that late April night anyway. If Trubisky turns out to be half as good as the personal investment Pace has instilled in him, then he'll look like a genius. The Bears will be relevant for a sustained period for the first time in decades, thanks to the arm, legs, and natural instinct of the 23-year-old that could be honed in. Everyone, or most everyone, will logically forget the infamous draft trade because of that growth.
The other key part of this equation is Nagy, the man who fits the bill of what Pace is looking for in a head coach, because he's the same exact person. It's early but Nagy hasn't accomplished anything of real note yet aside from retaining Vic Fangio and completing most of his coaching staff. However he mirrors Pace in the potential and confidence factor. Two Bears peas in one pod looking to change the game, who haven't demonstrated they've earned the benefit of the doubt yet.
Nagy is Pace's stern poker face on top of the pushed-in hand of him going all in to trade for Trubisky. He's the man who is tasked with making Trubisky special by committee and in corralling the entire Bears roster as a whole. Nagy is both intended to be the quarterback whisperer for his protege and the overall against-the-grain calculated leader the Bears haven't had in some time. A mentor and leader of men all in one package.
After an extremely patient and grinding three years, what Pace wants to do with his version of the Bears "founding" franchise (in the words of Nagy) has come across the dashboard for all to see. Nagy and Trubisky are his end-all be all. This is it. This is what will define his tenure.
For the next three years, thanks to Pace, these three are locked in and stuck with each other at the three most important slots of an NFL team. The general manager, the head coach, and the quarterback. Nobody knows if it will work or if they're the right moves at this moment. Taking a firm stance either way is irresponsible.
If it works, this Bears' trio is collectively young enough for their respective roles, to where they'll be able to bounce off each other for awhile in creating magic on the lakefront. If it doesn't, we go through the typical whirlwind Bears cycle of a full reboot, albeit with less optimism on every fresh iteration as per usual.
At any rate, we finally understand the time frame, the personnel ideal, and how Pace ideally wants everything to pan out for the Bears: or to see it go up in a destructive burst of flames. The curtains on this act have come all the way up.
In the words of a much criticized Bears' figure: that transparent level of understanding is something to be fired up about.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for The Rock River Times, an editor for Windy City Gridiron, and contributor to The Athletic Chicago. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.