The great buzzword of the 2021 offseason for the Bears has been collaboration and there is reason to believe it can work.
"I think it all comes back to the personnel department and the coaches being connected in every move we make," Bears general manager Ryan Pace said. "That's not just quarterback. That's every player we add to our team, and I think the longer we are together, the more connected we are, the better we are with our decision-making, and I think that's been proven over the last couple of drafts."
At least, it will and has worked better than it did when Pace sat at the wheel without anyone giving back-seat advice the way they're doing now with Matt Nagy playing a big role as an advisor.
The way this is best recognized is the reduction in total gaffes made by Pace since 2018, when Nagy came on board.
It's easy to nitpick some selections and minor mistakes.
For instance, last year the Bears took Cole Kmet at No. 43 when safety Antoine Winfield Jr. went just one pick later to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Winfield enjoyed a strong season for the Super Bowl champions.
Kmet came on strong and looks to have a good future at a need position.
The Bears weren't really looking safety as much then as they were for a cornerback in the secondary, and they had identified Kmet early in the process as the best tight end. He was at a need position and made more receptions than any tight end in the draft class.
It's often pointed out how they could have opted instead for Chase Claypool, Kmet's college teammate. But Claypool is a wide receiver. He isn't playing tight end. They were looking for the best possible tight end after the fiasco they endured at the position in 2019. They got him.
If you want to get technical about Claypool, they also took a player at the position he plays. They spent only a fifth-round pick to do it and Darnell Mooney had only one reception less (61) than Claypool, who was chosen by the Steelers in Round 2.
Another example: Last year the Bears could have taken Trevon Diggs and he went one pick after they took Jaylon Johnson.
Diggs had a better overall season than Johnson, who was injured the last three games. But Diggs played only 12 himself. He was given the 58th best cornerback grade by Pro Football Focus to the 84th for Johnson, and had both a better passer rating against (85.8-107.5) and completion percentage allowed (54.8-56.4) than Johnson.
Still, Johnson's season was solid for a rookie cornerback and it's hard to fault Pace much for taking someone productive even if the other player was a bit better.
Beyond those situations, Pace has had his share of total victories since the collaborating with Nagy began.
With Mooney, he made the steal of Round 5, if not Day 3 of last year's draft. About the next-closest Round 5 player taken was 49ers tackle Colton McKivitz and he was a distant second.
Kamren Curl was a Round 7 steal at safety for Washington, with three interceptions and 63 tackles.
On the offensive side, Mooney was the late-round gem.
The other great success of the collaboration era was trading up to get David Montgomery.
No other back in that draft has been as productive (1,959 rushing yards, 79 catches, 623 yards receiving) except Josh Jacobs, and he was a first-round pick. The Bears actually gave up little in draft capital to make the move up, and if they had remained at No. 87 then their next-best back would have been Damien Harris (703 yards rushing) or Alexander Mattison (896 yards rushing).
Even Anthony Miller has proven to be a reasonable draft success at receiver, all while the Bears shop him around.
In 2018 they could have had Michael Gallup, instead. Gallup caught more passes, but not a great deal more. What he did was get downfield for bigger gains and has 2,457 yards.
Would he have done that in this Bears offense with Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback and not Dak Prescott? Doubtful, extremely doubtful.
Still, it's not like they took a dud player when one more productive was available. It was just a productive player and more productive player.
Joel Iyiegbuniwe that year was a fourth-round Bears pick and he hasn't turned into a defensive starter or even third linebacker. They could have selected Kenny Young, instead.
While he's been more productive than Iyiegbuniwe, he hasn't been a great success. In fact, only four seasons later he's already on his second team.
No More Mitches at Least
At least the real disasters seem to have stopped.
The Mitchell Trubisky/Deshaun Watson/Patrick Mahomes fiasco of 2017 will always be the prime example of what damage an unaccompanied Pace can do.
It was so bad that it's easy to forget what he did in the very next round.
Pace drafted tight end Adam Shaheen with the Bears obviously in need of tight end help. He could have simply taken Jonnu Smith, who has been very solid with 114 catches, 1,302 yards and 16 TDs.
Shaheen was shipped off to Miami for a late-round pick and has 38 career catches.
Instead of Smith, Pace could have simply waited another round and taken this other tight end.
His name is George Kittle and he has almost twice as many career receptions as Smith and Pace's Division II tight end selection combined.