The pressure has never been greater on general manager Ryan Pace as the Bears approach his seventh NFL Draft.
It comes in all forms, internal and external, in relation to the Bears organization.
The internal pressure was obvious at the postseason press conference.
"We need to see improvement," board chairman George McCaskey said.
"We haven't won any playoff games in Ryan and Matt's tenure. That's not good enough," team CEO Ted Phillips said.
To see the external pressure, just go into social media and dial up Ryan Pace. They almost need to start censoring all messages about him, it gets that bad.
Those are what they are and Pace doesn't have to pay attention to the outside pressures, anyway.
The pressure within the organization is another story.
While pressure to produce exists, there is also real pressure from what actually affects his ability to make picks within the draft. Anything increasing the degree of difficulty he faces in drafting causes pressure to build.
Here's what he faces.
5. The Bears Quarterback Quagmire
AKA, Double Q.
No matter what he does, Pace doesn't seem to have the answer at quarterback. They pay to bring in Mike Glennon, identify Mitchell Trubisky as the guy, trade up to get him and Glennon flops immediately while Trubisky flops gradually over a period of four years. They bring in Nick Foles for a quick fix and it doesn't work. Now Andy Dalton is the quick fix while they look into adding another layer to this quagmire. Each day and failure only increases the pressure to make sure they get it right the next time.
McCaskey and Phillips believe he'll get it right this time because of collaboration with Nagy. He had Nagy to collaborate with last year when they made a quarterback trade and Foles hasn't worked out, although expecting him to do it in year when he had 15 practices to get ready for his first season in the offense was ridiculous.
The quarterback position is Pace's great failure and it's a personal challenge to correct it.
4. Khalil Mack
It's not Mack himself, but the trade which pressures Pace. You can debate the wisdom of trading for Mack forever without resolution but what can't be denied is the Bears haven't had a first-round pick since taking Roquan Smith in 2018, and first-rounders help generate a team's growth. Without one, it takes a real edge off of the draft.
The Bears have made up for it to some extent with impact players in their last two drafts. David Montgomery, Cole Kmet and Jaylon Johnson were nice additions from their first rounds of participation. It's still not the same as having the first round to get the fifth, 10th or 20th or 15th best player available in a draft class.
Mack has been a dominant player but in the meantime players begin to age out near 30 or just after it in this league and the youth of first-round pick success helps keep this from becoming too big of a factor for a team.
3. The Bears Salary Cap
A first-rounder isn't cheap, but it's generally less expensive paying a first-round pick than it is to search out a veteran in free agency who is calling for $10 million plus a year.
When a team misses and must delve into free agency, the cap hit is bigger. When they succeed and develop a player, the cap hit eventually occurs but it's a gradual development they can play to address. When they miss, it's take the cap hit now and find talent. The Bears have taken too many of these and are up against it, in great need of draft success to relieve some of that veteran, salary cap pressure.
The issue with a reduced cap due to the pandemic only heightens the pressure.
2. Lineup Holes
Usually Pace is able to cover the weaker roster spots, th holes within the lineup, with an acceptable veterans before they draft. This lowers pressure to hit on each pick.
Misses in past drafts, reliance on too many free agents who have now left, and success by his own developed players who left have led to too many spots to entirely cover. Lack of cash then contributed to the inability to get better free agents for the bare spots.
The cornerback position looks like a gaping hole when the best they've come up with is Desmond Trufant on the outside and one of two young players from Day 3 of the draft who have struggled as slot cornerback replacements for Buster Skrine.
They have to fill those positions with a productive rookie, no ifs ands or buts.
They can see holes building in the future elsewhere, although in some cases the view might really be closer than it looks.
The defensive line could have one hole next year. They could have another at tackle next year, or even this year if the players Pace planned on to play right tackle fail to produce. It could happen. Neither Germain Ifedi nor Elijah Wilkinson have exactly been perennial Pro Bowl candidates when they play right tackle. Then there's left tackle Charles Leno Jr. in the final year of his contract, an average player who draws plenty of criticism playing a spot where a dominant player is almost necessary.
1. Draft Gaps
This might be the biggest problem facing Pace on draft day itself.
The pressure is on Pace for numerous reasons, but his ability to address the issues with picks is going to be affected greatly by gaps between each pick.
Already, the gap between Round 1, Pick 1 and Round 1, Pick 20 will probably keep him from addressing the quarterback quagmire with the best talent.
It's possible to find a quarterback in Round 2, but waiting much later is really going to reduce chances for success. And they might not even get one then. They already know they'd be getting no better than the sixth-best candidate if they go past Round 1 without taking a quarterback. It's likely to be worse because of the next gap until the 52nd pick. In the gap between Pick 20 and Pick 52 are teams right behind the Bears in Round 1 or ahead of them in Round 2 who could take the remaining acceptable quarterback candidates.
It's the same away if they reach and take a quarterback in Round 1 who is considered a second-rounder by many, like Davis Mills, Kyle Trask or Kellen Mond. Then they've got to wait all the way until the 52nd or 83rd picks to address real needs at tackle or cornerback.
Wait until the third-round pick has passed and then you've got a real gap from 83 to No. 164. The compensatory picks enter into the picture after Round 3 and add onto the end of Round 4.
If a team hasn't addressed needs by the end of Day 2, and they don't have a pick until Round 5, they've got problems.
The Bears have problems.
And they have pressure.