When Ryan Pace was brought in to be the Bears general manager in 2015, it was a different time. Pace promised sustained success, and he delivered. In fact, there are three key areas where he exceeded any reasonable expectations.
Success at quarterback
The Bears franchise had previously flirted with the idea that fans would watch no matter who the quarterback was, but Pace really elevated this to an art form. According to those with no knowledge of the situation, Pace considers this to be one of his crowning achievements.
“Look, Jay Cutler was a tough act to follow,” Pace certainly did not say to confidants. “But I started Mike Glennon, Mitch Trubisky, and Nick Foles, and each time Chicagoans still somehow thought we cared about winning.” Nobody can confirm that the Bears’ GM then giggled maniacally.
Those who are certainly not inside Halas Hall then pointed out that while it would be easy to miss on a generations talent like Patrick Mahomes or an easy choice like Deshaun Watson, it took a particular type of mind to trade up to make that sort of mistake, and then to compound that decision-making with the free agent signings of players like Mike Glennon and Chase Daniel.
Success at drafting
Pace actually did say that “For the Bears to have sustained success, we must build through the draft,” and that “The recipe to winning Super Bowls is to string successful drafts together again, again and again.” What he never actually promised was that he was going to do any of those things. Instead, as his evil twin alter ego might point out, he simply tantalized Bears fans with the idea that he might do those things.
“Look, my top draft picks have included Kevin White, Hroniss Grasu, Leonard Floyd, Jonathan Bullard, Mitch Trubisky, Adam Shaheen, Anthony ‘Ejected’ Miller, and the wrong Ridley brother,” Pace did not gloat, before not shaking his head ruefully, “I mean, I kind of screwed up with Eddie Goldman and Roquan Smith, but otherwise, I showed that fans will hope for the best every draft no matter who I actually pick.”
His success at drafting was groundbreaking, in that it proved that Bears fans will keep expecting each draft to change a team’s fortunes, even when the person making those selections has so consistently and stubbornly squandered draft position with irrational trades and poor talent evaluation.
Success in keeping the long view in mind
Pace has also successfully positioned the Bears to be at a disadvantage no matter what happens next. For example, Robert Quinn was signed to a disastrous contract, with NBC Sports’ Alex Shapiro pointing out “The Bears won’t have an easy time cutting ties with Quinn because of his contract either. He carries a dead cap hit of $23.9 million next season, according to Spotrac, so releasing him won’t be a viable option, and finding a trade partner is extremely unlikely.”
The Mack trade was almost Pace’s undoing, in that it immediately resulted in on-field improvement and gave the defense a shot in the arm to elevate the team to a single 12-4 season. However, once that short-term problem was resolved by the combined talents of Trubisky and Pace’s free agent kicker Cody Parkey, the loss of two first-round draft picks and their accompanying price-controlled contracts had a stabilizing force.
“We really dodged a bullet there. The defense came together unexpectedly,” a source with no knowledge of the situation offered. “I mean, Ryan got things under control in a hurry by extending a 5’6” running back to a long-term deal on the eve of him getting injured and then overpaying a one-year ballhawk safety for the least reliable thing in football—turnovers.” That same source went on to explain that without those measures, the Bears might have had cap space left over.
On the other hand, Pace has shown that with his free agent signings of Marcus Cooper, Markus Wheaton, Eddie Royal, Tre Burton, and the aforementioned Parkey and Glennon that he can always burn cap space.
Putting it all together
The crowning accomplishment of Pace’s career is obviously trading up to draft Mitch Trubisky, but it is not the moment that best personifies what he brought to Halas Hall. No, the signature Pace move is obvious.
“The Nick Foles trade,” laughed a man who was not Matt Nagy. “Boy, did Pace totally pull a masterpiece there. He gave up a draft pick to get a quarterback the Jacksonville Jaguars didn’t even want. And in doing so, he committed the Bears to more than $14mil in a dead cap hit if he gets cut.” The fictional person in question then pounded the table and howled in laughter. “And all this for a quarterback who went 2-5 for Chicago and somehow posted worse efficiency stats than Jay Cutler’s worst season.”
It’s no wonder Ryan Pace is back. His contributions to the Bears are truly one-of-a-kind.