The Chicago Bears have a second-year quarterback who ranked at or near the top of his draft class at this time last year, a new head coach from a healthy coaching tree who is schooled in developing quarterbacks, and are coming off a free agency period in which the team signed the best player at its biggest position of need.
And yet, the general manager responsible for all of it ranks dead last in a recent ranking of league executives.
Bears GM Ryan Pace is listed as 26th among the 26 peers reviewed and ranked by NFL.com Around the NFL editor Gregg Rosenthal, who did not include first-time executives hired since January 2017. However, first-year executives with previous job experience and a track record were included in the exercise.
With the caveats out of the way, Rosenthal based his rankings on each general manager’s body of work (drafts, free agency, hirings, etc.) and Pace finds himself at the absolute bottom of the barrel.
While Rosenthal points out Pace inherited a mess from the previous regime led by Phil Emery, he also highlights Pace’s first three major moves (hiring John Fox, signing Pernell McPhee, drafting Kevin White) as significant missteps that are reflected in the team’s .290 winning percentage. I suppose that’s understandable, considering Pace and McPhee are no longer with the team, while White has played just five games since 2015. But as you could have expected, the unproductive free agency class of 2017 rears its ugly head as the primary factor on why Pace’s ranking is where it is today.
It remains exceedingly dumb that Pace continues to get shredded for the 2017 free agent class when all of the deals were for short-term guaranteed money in an offseason where none of the significant free agents wanted to come to a Bears team that looked like a dead end. Now, guess what? They want to come. And it’s because the head coach who was hired a few months ago and the quarterback who was drafted nearly a year ago … by Pace. They have even said so explicitly.
Indeed, Matt Nagy had eyes for Mitch Trubisky last year during the pre-draft process and Nagy and Trubisky played a major part in Allen Robinson’s decision to choose Chicago over other suitors (including the rival Green Bay Packers). Taylor Gabriel also found himself intrigued by Nagy and Trubisky, going as far to use YouTube to scout the scheme and the quarterback who was going to be throwing the ball. Even defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich acknowledged Trubisky’s presence as a reason why they were excited about the Bears’ future.
So while it’s too early to grade this offseason’s acquisitions, there’s something to be said about the change of perception that has occurred since the end of the season and the successful role Ryan Pace played in that.