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Maintaining Bears GM Status Quo

A case for retaining Bears general manager Ryan Pace even after seven years and the lack of a playoff victory.

All the focus on Matt Nagy's plight and false reports combined with the five-game losing streak by the Bears to shift all spotlight away from one major problem.

Ryan Pace.

Since he became the general manager, Pace has hired two coaches and in seven years doesn't have a playoff win to show for it. They have two playoff berths and one season with a winning record in that time period.

If Nagy is in danger of losing his job, then how can Pace possibly keep his? 

Remember, they are joined at the hip from board chairman George McCaskey's description about why he liked their performance in January at the 2020 season-ending press conference.

"I think it's the way they collaborate," McCaskey said. "Matt's been involved in player personnel decisions since he arrived here. Of course Ryan has the final say on selection and roster decisions, but it's how well they work together. 

"Like I said they have vigorous discussions and we think that their collaboration will result in the right decisions for the Bears."

Apparently one half of this tag team has failed because the Bears are 4-7 and going nowhere despite their two-point win over the only winless team in football.

If Nagy finds he's out, there would appear no possible way Pace should then stay. 

Then again. ...

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Pace could be retained for several reasons but it is sure going to take some backtracking from McCaskey and/or team CEO Ted Phillips about all of their collaboration malarkey.

Here are potential reasons the Bears could keep Pace if they do change head coaches.

6. Pace's Contract

The Bears refuse to reveal length of it and even pulled mention of how long he's under contract from their website. They were overly paranoid about the topic at their season-ending press conference, suggesting something is different. If Pace is locked in past next season, it would seem unlikely the McCaskeys would even want to part ways with him. If he's not, then this is no factor.

5. It's Easier

If the Bears fire just Nagy, they'll want Pace to hire the coach for them. If they fired both, then Phillips and McCaskey become responsible again for finding a GM and letting this person hire a coach. They lack the football expertise for doing either.  What they've done in the past is bring in consultant Ernie Accorsi. Now they'd have to go find another consultant. Accorsi is 80 years old and entirely out of the loop. The Lions hired him as a consultant for their GM position in 2016 and look how that turned out. The Giants used him as a consultant for the GM spot and it hasn't paid off yet. So they'd also have to figure out a new consultant. It's much more simple for them to just keep Pace and fire Nagy. In fact, McCaskey and Phillips wouldn't need to even show up at the postseason press conference. They could come take some bows after the new coaching hire by Pace when everything has blown over.

4. Only One Coach Hiring

No one who follows the Bears would ever perceive John Fox to be Pace's hiring. That one had the Ted Phillips-George McCaskey influence all over it because Pace had no experience as a young GM, and it seemed feasible to bring in a head coach with a vast amount of experience. If Pace had been left to his own devices, it's difficult to imagine he ever would have gone to the Bears and said he had to have Fox. So he has really only been given one coaching hire. Nagy did initially win the division and make the playoffs two of his first three years so even that hire can't be labeled a complete failure.

3. Khalil Mack Trade

While injuries do poor some water over the white-hot heat here, Mack overall has been a huge upgrade for the Bears defense and lifted them to a higher level they otherwise never could have attained. It was that defense and Mack who made the 2018 run to the division title possible. It cost two first-round draft picks but in no dimension of the draft multiverse is there a scenario where Pace uses those draft picks to find a player who could have had the impact Mack has had. That is, a least until they moved up to draft Justin Fields.

2. Recent Success

Cole Kmet, Jaylon Johnson and Darnell Mooney look like tremendous success stories from the 2020 draft. They're even getting production now from Trevis Gipson, who had to overcome obstacles such as no experience playing from an upright position. The 2021 draft has given them Fields, Khalil Herbert, Larry Borom and they could yet find out Teven Jenkins is a starter. Going back another year, Pace made a real find in David Montgomery with a class where his other picks haven't panned out at all. Duke Shelley might yet prove a decent nickel cornerback and had shown some signs of progress but by now they would have hoped to have seen more. Still, the last two drafts give indication Pace knows now how to work with a coach and determine the best players for quick development. Pace is always lauded for his middle-round picks and this could be overexaggerated. Eddie Jackson has struggled after bursting on the scene with two great seasons. Bilal Nichols is a starter but not a real impact player this year. They had another good safety in Adrian Amos and let him get away. Tarik Cohen was a success but that currently looks like past tense. Judged overall, Pace can't be labeled a total failure at bringing in talent. He's just not among the league's best at it.

1. Justin Fields

Pace found a way to bring the franchise a quarterback with tremendous natural ability when they really had no right to anticipate it. 

Nagy definitely played a role in identifying Fields as a player of immense talent, but in the end it was Pace who had the connections and made the maneuver to pull off the trade up past several teams who no doubt would have taken him, including the Minnesota Vikings. 

Some outsiders, namely Packers fans, will look at Fields and see numbers like a 69.0 passer rating or 58% completions and wonder what's the big deal. But the handful of incredible passes and runs the rookie has produced make it obvious he can be a tremendous success in the NFL if properly handled by the right coaching staff within a functioning offensive system. Sure, they lose the tag-team if one half of the collaboration is gone, but Pace then just collaborates with someone else.

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