Chicago Bears’ fans, something feels different in 2018 doesn’t it?
We’ve had hope before, but there’s a different vibe with our favorite franchise this offseason. General manager Ryan Pace seems to have changed his plan in constructing his roster, but why?
Recently the Windy City Gridiron staff kicked around some ideas in an email chain started by our Bear’s Den Dude, Ken Mitchell.
Here’s what Ken started the whole discussion off with.
“In his press conference where the Bears announced his contract extension (back on January 1), it looked like Pace was a bit shaken, not happy. I suspect he had been told that he was getting the extension for no other reason than it’s what was required to hire a new coach, since no coach of any quality would sign up for a team with a short-term GM. He admitted he had made mistakes, and promised to learn from them.”
And here’s his theory,
“Ryan Pace went for the safe, high character, highest-floor players with high ceilings, rather than his usual swing for the fences, because he’s learned that it’s too costly to strike out with the top 3 picks. He decided to dig in and try for the home run with picks 4 and 5, and then just best player available for the 6th and 7th round. Pace played it safe because he realized that too many more big misses means the end of his GM career.”
He then asked us for our thoughts and a few of us chimed in.
Andrew Link, who just attacked the Bears’ pass rush in his latest article, sent the following.
“That is entirely possible. I wouldn’t doubt that something happened. There is some speculation that his seat was warming right before the extension.”
But Andrew also floated his own theory.
“Although I have also heard that ownership loves Pace. If that is true, then it’s possible that Pace, without Fox, was finally able to spread his wings. He got his head coach, his quarterback, and had enough around them that he could make key moves that moved the needle big time. This whole off-season has felt like a “win-now” season. The draft feels like one that was designed to plug-and-play.”
I’m with Andrew. I think Pace changed his offseason philosophy because he believes his rebuild is over. John Fox was always going to be an A to B coach (‘a la Doug Collins). He was never going to be the guy that got the Bears to the Championship (‘a la Phil Jackson).
My theory is that Pace feels he has turned the roster over enough to be able to compete in 2018. And with his quarterback in place, along with his new offensive minded head coach, and his returning defensive staff to continue to grow that side of the ball, it was time to spend on top talent and draft safer players.
Roquan Smith is as complete an inside linebacking prospect to come around in several years. He’s going to be good. James Daniels is going to be solid professional player and help solidify the offensive line. Anthony Miller has the “it-factor” you want in a wide out, plus he’s a damn good football as well.
Even Pace’s third day picks all have a bit of safeness to them. His one gamble was on outside linebacker Kylie Fitts, but the sixth round is a fine place to take a chance. Health is his only concern and he was healthy at the NFL Combine. Pace spent a late round pick to see if he’s brittle or unlucky. If it was luck, and if that luck has turned, the Bears have an athletic prospect to coach up.
But let’s see what Sam Householder had to say on the subject.
“I think Pace spent the first three drafts swinging for the fences on guys that needed a little time to round into complete football players because he knew the team was going nowhere, and he had the time to wait for them to develop.
Last year he finally had a legitimate shot to get his quarterback, the largest block on the way to finishing the rebuild. Once he had that, and now that he has “his coach” in place — the guy who will round his QB into a complete player — he realized he needed to round the roster into shape and start getting results.
That meant no more taking athletic projects, and to start getting immediate plug and play players. Now that he knows the team is that much closer to being in contention, there is no more time to wait for guys to develop.”
Sam’s theory in a nutshell, “The team is closer to contention so he needs players that are closer.”
We had one more writer join in on the fun, so take a peek at what Erik Christopher Duerrwaechter had to say.
“Pace look a little “shook” in his dismissal of John Fox, because it marked the realization his plans haven’t gone according to plan. It was his “come to Jesus” moment. George McCaskey has proven he’s not afraid to fire people when he feels their times have come.
Pace finally has “his” coach and QB in place. Said QB is on his rookie contract, which means easy security at a low cost. He’s been empowered by the executives to carry out his mission. Knowing this, and seeing that his team has won only 14 games in 3 years, he knows his time will come to an end if the wins don’t start being stockpiled. General managers generally don’t receive second chances in the NFL.
With all these considerations in mind, Pace maxed out his team’s available resources. Out with the idea of swinging the bats solely for potential, and in with bringing in established talent. He didn’t “force” anything this year. He also was willing to be more bold in pursuing top names in free agency. He looks comfortable with his new coaching staff, and his confidence has been displayed with his recent free agency signings as well as his draft haul.
In essence, he’s re-shuffled his philosophies after seeing less-than-favorable results the first three years. Instead of stubbornly sticking to his previous plans, he’s adjusted himself to new ideas. He’s more open to the media. He’s more conversational with people. The entire coaching staff is standing out in the bright lights, instead of hiding in bunkers under John Fox.
It’s a new age of football in Chicago.”
We don’t call him Optimist Prime for nothing.
Here’s the bottom line. We still haven’t cheered a winner since 2012. We haven’t watched the Bears in the playoffs since 2010, and we’re getting to know a fourth head coach in the last seven years. But more and more NFL people are starting to believe this Bears team has turned a corner. More Bears’ fans are hopeful that better days are ahead.
Something changed for Ryan Pace after the 2017 season ended. Whether it was the perfect storm of coaches and personnel coming together to take his long-game vision to fruition, a mandate from up above that he needs to win now, or a fear for his long term employment, I hope to see more of this new Ryan Pace for the next several years.