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Bears general manager roundtable: The top quality

Someone diligent and proactive has gotta clean up the mess at Halas Hall.

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The Bears are looking for a new general manager after Ryan Pace was let go Monday morning. Whoever is hired will follow in the massive steps of Pace, Phil Emery, and Jerry Angelo, among others (what a crowd!).

With Chicago already beginning an extensive search for their next head of football operations, we at Windy City Gridiron thought it appropriate to discuss who and what we want out of the next person to try and bring a Lombardi trophy back to Halas Hall.

Today’s thought, much like our head coach musings, centers on the main quality we’d like to see out of the Bears’ next general manager. An exemplary talent evaluator? A salary cap wizard? A master puppeteer of an entire organization? We’re talking the very head of football operations for the Chicago Bears, and no stone can be unturned.

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What top quality would you like to see in the next Bears’ general manager?

Robert Zeglinski: Is it too much to ask the Bears to turn their first-rounders into blue-chip players? They are the core of your team, and I can’t remember the last time the Bears didn’t have a hollowed-out core. To me, everything else is gravy on top of getting premium franchise talent at modern (so, not linebackers and running backs) game-changing positions again.

Josh Sunderbruch: I want to see a basic understanding of longitudinal planning, and ideally a knowledge of systems that exceeds the understanding of a curious middle-schooler. Draft picks matter. Cap space matters. Bringing in five new safeties when only a couple will get playing time is dumb. I want to see someone who has a plan and follows it, not a suit with impulse control issues.

Erik Duerrwaechter: A strong balance between aggressiveness and logical decision-making. There will be times when a general manager needs to act quickly and secure the big catch they’re fighting to reel in. There will also be times when a general manager needs to be patient and let the market play itself out.

In recent years, Ryan Pace wedged himself into a bad spot when he started panicking at the quarterback and skill positions. And, he became reckless with the cap space as a result. A good GM needs to review all their options to fix positions of need, then identify their best option, and act accordingly. This is true for both free agency and the draft.

Naturally, a GM must be adept at identifying talent as well. But I feel Ryan Pace could identify talent rather well. The lack of balance between aggressiveness and common sense got him fired in the end. Find your talent, then be savvy about the roster construction. Don’t procrastinate on needs, either.

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Sam Householder: Come from an organization that prioritizes cap management and draft picks. Teams like the Packers, Ravens, and New England come to mind. Pace came from New Orleans, which has had cap issues for a long time and invented the dangerous game of void years. Sure, New Orleans has drafted well too, but Pace didn’t value taking more swings at drafting vs. chasing a couple of top guys he had circled on his big board.

Ken Mitchell: Somebody who drafts well and doesn’t trade away draft picks. And, somebody who doesn’t sign a lot of expensive, mediocre-to-bad quarterbacks.

Aaron Leming: I want to see a well-rounded evaluator that values draft picks and can manage the cap while also respecting analytics. That’s a lot to ask, but I think finding the most well-rounded candidate will be the key. So far, I’ve liked the names the Bears have lined up for interviews. Finding an excellent general manager is not easy, but I believe this is a good candidate pool with many intriguing names.

Bill Zimmerman: There are plenty of great answers here about properly valuing picks, using analytics, and spending money wisely. But for me, it’s simpler: no GM will be perfect. GMs will make mistakes. The next GM needs to be willing to admit mistakes and learn from them. That’s one thing Ryan Pace never did. Had Pace evolved in his thinking over seven years, perhaps he would have become a quality GM. But he continually made the same mistakes, and it’s those mistakes that, in the end, cost him his job.

Jack R. Salo: First-round pick success. The Bears haven’t found a Pro Bowl player in the first round since Phil Emery was the GM, and no, Trubisky doesn’t count. The Bears need the Justin Jefferson’s. They need the Tristan Wirf’s. They need the Lamar Jackson’s. Get the studs when you climb out of the top-draft pick bunch.