Bears Still Counting Their Blessings

The sequence of events leading to Justin Fields becoming a Chicago Bear almost defies all logic.
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Bears fans joyously celebrated over the last week over having a quarterback regarded as one of the best in the draft, and not one the general manager had to defend.

The critics have heralded Ryan Pace as a genius for a draft class with plenty of value picks and Justin Fields at the top of it.

Some of the fan reaction in social media has treated it like they've won the lottery.

In fact, those fans might not realize how accurate this actually is.

It truly is like the stars aligned to make this occur.

Put everything else aside and think of the symmetry involved: In 2017 Ryan Pace moved up to take Mitchell Trubisky and paid a steep price to the San Francisco 49ers to go one space up, then Patrick Mahomes was selected on a trade-up by Kansas City eight picks after he could have gone to the Bears at No. 2. Four years later, the Bears trade up and get Fields eight picks after he could have gone at No. 3 to who else? The 49ers.

Begin Twilight Zone music.

Count the ways the Bears stumbled into something good and realize Pace deserves as much credit for having a horse shoe in a perfect place as he does for making something positive happen. And this isn't to discredit Pace. He even admitted how fortunate they felt. But really, talk about jackpots.

1. The 49ers take Trey Lance

This is the most important step in this serendipitous sequence.

49ers GM John Lynch had his chance at an experienced quarterback with an accurate, powerful arm who could run a 4.44 in the 40-yard dash and had been highly successful against the best college competition in the country. He also could have taken a fast processor of defenses and an anticipatory passer with a slightly less powerful arm in Mac Jones, or a physically gifted athlete with a powerful arm but had the nation's worst accuracy at passes thrown beyond the line of scrimmage the last two years. He chose the latter, the quarterback who threw only 318 college passes and won a national lesser-program title by completing six passes in the title game.

As recently two weeks before the draft the oddsmakers from Fanduel.com had Fields and Jones even to be the third pick by the 49ers. Four days before the odds had changed drastically for this. Still, on draft day Fields' over/under was 7 1/2. And he slid past this spot.

2. The Atlanta Falcons at No. 4 know Matt Ryan won't play forever, they have the fourth pick in the draft and are a rebuilding program. There is no better time to take a top quarterback early in the draft than the first year for a new coach. Ryan is 36 years old. The Falcons select possibly the most highly coveted player in the draft in tight end Kyle Pitts, but they took him knowing he plays a position where first-round draft picks have a horrendous record of production. They could have taken Fields and not worried about passing the torch at quarterback in a few years. If their program improves the way they want now, they may not ever be in position to get one of the draft's better quarterbacks again with a pick as early as No. 4. They still took Pitts.

3. Cincinnati wasn't trading down or taking Fields at No. 5 because of the need for talent to help Joe Burrow. And the Miami Dolphins had the sixth pick but have quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in his second year. Still, Miami is in prime position to move down, steal extra picks and give the pick to a quarterback-starved team like Washington, Denver or New England. The Bears wouldn't get Fields. They Dolphins made it known before the draft they would listen to offers. It never happened, and Miami took Jaylen Waddle. Who could blame them with all that receiving talent? Still, moving down would have given them extra picks and they could have had other receiver options while also dashing the Bears' chances at a quarterback.

4. Detroit even could have looked at quarterback after trading for Jared Goff. The Lions didn't so much trade for Goff as they traded away Matthew Stafford for first-round picks, and had Goff thrown in as a bonus. No one would have begrudged them the selection of a fast quarterback to take advantage of the fast track indoors at Ford Field. Also, the Lions are rebuilding by fortifying both sides of the line of scrimmage, which is extremely wise. They could have done an even better job of this by trading down with a team seeking to take Fields. Instead, they made a smart choice because they got the draft's best tackle, Penei Sewell.

5. This is where it really gets dicey and downright stupid. Carolina traded for Sam Darnold, sure. Yet, several league sources have said several teams who could have sought Darnold did not do it because they regard him as a bust. The Panthers don't think so, but after he looked so bad for three seasons with a questionable coaching staff, it would have been very easy for the Panthers to say they had to cover their bets and draft a quarterback in Round 1. Odds are strong none of next year's draft class should be rated as high as the eighth pick. Carolina had already dumped Teddy Bridgewater. What's to keep the Panthers from taking Fields? Instead, they take cornerback Jaycee Horn. He might not even be the second-best cornerback in the draft let alone the best one. Most predraft mocks had Patrick Surtain going ahead of him and Mel Kiper Jr. regarded Caleb Farley as better than both. They take the risky second-best cornerback instead of a quarterback or trading down for picks. Fields' fall continues.

6. Here is where the fit is most logical for Fields. The Denver Broncos have searched for a quarterback. Bringing in Teddy Bridgewater seems like a stop-gap or safety net. Drew Lock definitely isn't a lock to succeed. Vic Fangio could use a quarterback, and if John Elway was still calling the shots you know it's going to be yet another first-round quarterback for the Broncos. Fields would be going here or  perhaps Jones, but most likely Fields. Instead, after signing cornerbacks Ronald Darby and former Bear Kyle Fuller, Fangio takes a cornerback. He takes Surtain. There were reporters in Denver who said they knew with certainty prior to the draft that GM George Paton liked Fields. They passed. Like the others, they also could have traded back to a team looking to get Fields before the Bears.

7. It's all looking pretty incredible now and the 10th pick belongs to Jerry Jones but the Cowboys maverick decides to trade down. This is it. The Bears are cooked. Some team is moving up there to get Fields. It's the Eagles. The breaks have all fallen Pace's way so far. He's throwing dice without crapping out. But getting the chance at Fields isn't all luck. The Eagles, in a rare intradivisional trade, moved up to 10 from No. 12 after they already gave up the sixth pick to go back to 12 for picks. The Eagles give Dallas the 12th pick and will take 10th. GM Howie Roseman has already been involved in a situation this offseason with the Bears, as he dangled Carson Wentz before trading his QB to Indianapolis. Now, he's surely going to trade up to take Fields because his quarterback is Jalen Hurts, a second-round pick who was only 1-3 in four starts and had a passer rating of 77.6 as a rookie—0.1 better than Trubisky did as a rookie. His other quarterback is Joe Flacco, once a Super Bowl MVP and now less desirable than Nick Foles, who the Bears reportedly tried to trade but failed to accomplish. Of course Philadelphia should want another quarterback to either take the job Hurts has or to compete. Nope. DeVonta Smith, and no one could blame Roseman for wanting a play maker of this caliber, one who played in college with Hurts. Still, a 77.6 passer rating and Flacco?

8. It's pick No. 11 now for the Giants, who aren't necessarily in the market for a quarterback because they have Daniel Jones. After two years, Jones' stats are not as good as Trubisky's were after two years. So why wouldn't they want a quarterback?

As it turns out, Pace did his due diligence with GM Dave Gettleman.

"Fortunately, with the Giants, I've known Dave Gettleman for 20 years," Pace said. "He's an amazing person and amazing general manager and we go way back, so that communication started really this morning about something like that happening, and when we were able to execute it in the draft, I just feel real fortunate."

This is still no cinch.

As Giant Country's Patricia Traina pointed out, the Giants had been thinking of trading down to get more picks and help out Brown, but had never traded down since Gettleman became GM in 2018. In fact, they hadn't done it since 2006.

There's a first time for everything. The bells ring, the lights flash on and off, the coins fall out of the machine and Pace has hit the jackpot.

'We feel really fortunate to be able to get Justin in the area of the draft we were able to select him," Pace said in possibly the greatest Bears draft understatement since the classic understatements of Bears draft history.

9. Maybe the biggest break was how ownership decided it was all right for Pace and coach Matt Nagy to trade away this year's No. 1, next year's No. 1, as well as fourth- and fifth-round picks to go after Fields. After the Trubisky experience, they easily could have nixed all of this but let Pace and Nagy do their work. 

The Bears had been big underdogs to get Fields. According to Betonline.ag, he $100 bet on the Bears paid $1,000.

It was Derrick Rose going to the Bulls all over again, without the shady ping-pong balls.

A franchise floundering for decades without an answer at quarterback might have one. All it took was an incredible sequence of lucky breaks combined with good scouting.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven