It’s very clear that Bears fans want John Fox out. I seriously do not hope I would need to explain this to anyone after the past couple seasons, but in a nutshell, we will just say he is a hideous NFL coach.
The more intriguing discussion, one that we should actually be happening, is about General Manager Ryan Pace. While he isn’t fully to blame for the mess that the Bears franchise finds itself in, he is by no means absolved from blame at all. And for that reason, I felt like it is time for me to do my own performance review on his job so far, and determine whether or not he should have a job come January 2, 2018.
Drafting is quite clearly the best part of Ryan Pace’s job so far in the Windy City.
In the three years he has been in Chicago, he has drafted nine players I deem to be ‘key’ players, including doing an impressive job finding value in later rounds.
Some of his day three value selections include running back Tarik Cohen, a relatively unknown speedster from North Carolina A&T who has become a change-of-pace back in his rookie year; Eddie Jackson, a safety from Alabama coming off of a major injury who has become a solid starter year one; Adrian Amos, another safety out of Penn State whose graded currently by PFF as the second-best safety in football in 2017; and Jordan Howard, a power-back from Indiana who was second in both yards and yards per carry in his rookie year despite only getting his first start in week four.
His other key selections include spending a fourth-round pick on Nick Kwiatkowski, one of the best backup linebackers in football, a second on star center Cody Whitehair, and taking Florida State’s defensive tackle Eddie Goldman on the second day in 2015.
Two of his three first-round selections seem like they are going to pan out as well. The jury is still out on Mitchell Trubisky, but it won’t be apparent whether or not he was the right pick for years in the future, as is the case with quarterbacks. His 2016 selection, edge rusher Leonard Floyd, has already proven to be a dominant force in the pros.
Pace’s only true miss was his first ever draft pick, wide receiver Kevin White. Coming out of West Virginia, White was seen as a sure thing. However, countless injuries, including a broken leg, have derailed his career to the point where it is in serious doubt whether or not he will ever see another NFL snap.
Having one true bust in three years of drafting is indicative of a general manager doing an exceptional job of drafting, and Ryan Pace proves that he has been one of the best in the league in this regard over his tenure.
This category is more inconsequential than anything, as Pace is truly yet to make a blockbuster trade. Yes, I realize people are going to be bringing up the Mitchell Trubisky trade as being a “blockbuster,” but I haven’t put too much weight into it.
Sure, it was a bad deal, and Pace got tricked by 49ers general manager John Lynch. However, much like previous trades from Pace, it’s going to likely be rendered inconsequential. While Ryan Pace is an exceptional drafter, it’s impossible to expect a mid-round pick to be a key contributor to a team. No one hits on all of them. If Mitchell Trubisky pans out as well as Ryan Pace thinks he will and Solomon Thomas is as good as I think he will be, this trade won’t mean that much at all.
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The next biggest trade that Pace has made was spending a fourth-round pick to jump ahead of the New York Giants in the 2016 draft and take Leonard Floyd. Again, as is with the Trubisky trade, a fourth-round pick is a small price to pay to get the guy you want.
While it didn’t look great at the time, culture-changing trades involving Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett, moving pieces which aren’t the best locker room guys (to say the least) turned out to be decent moves for Pace. Adrian Amos was selected with the pick acquired in the Brandon Marshall trade.
Has Pace made his equivalent to the Steve Young or Brett Favre trades? No, but he hasn’t had to yet. While he hasn’t been good, it’s hard to complain about the trades Pace has made.
Free Agency: C-
It’s very easy to stare at Antrel Rolle, Mike Glennon, Markus Wheaton, and others and say that Ryan Pace is atrocious at free agency. While it’s impossible to deny he has had more cataclysmic failures than hits in free agency, he hasn’t done as bad as some certain members of the local media may make him look.
First of all, the one giant stain on Ryan Pace’s resume may not be as bad as many think. Yes, I am about to defend the indefensible: the Mike Glennon deal. Glennon’s contract, though it looks like 3-years/$45 million deal, was set up by Pace to essentially just be a 1-year/$18 million one. For a guy which the staff thought would be their starting quarterback this year, that’s a bargain. It didn’t work out, unfortunately, but the idea was a good one.
A lot of Pace’s free agency fails, though not at all defensible, do have similar outs. Antrel Rolle’s contract didn’t but the Bears in cap peril, the Markus Wheaton one won’t, and the Glennon one, though having some deferred money, isn’t ultimately disastrous.
The problem comes in with the type of talent he has skipped over. He rejected such free agents such as Marvin Jones, Travis Benjamin, and Alshon Jeffery last season in favor of Markus Wheaton, and passed on Brock Osweiler, Brian Hoyer, and Ryan Fitzpatrick for Mike Glennon. Pace’s pro scouting hasn’t been up to the level it needs to be for a Super Bowl-contending general manager.
However, to offset that, Pace made one of the best free agency signings of the past three years, signing Akiem Hicks from New England. That, coupled with such hits as Josh Sitton, Jerrell Freeman, and Prince Amukamara makes his free agency career not a complete disaster.
The Verdict: B
Yes, obviously, Ryan Pace should stay. I’m kind of impressed that the Chicago media has managed to even make this a debate. Every general manager, in any sport, has blunders. Even Bill Belichick, just this year, traded down in the draft to get a defensive lineman, who he then cut, and is now balling out for his arch rival.
If anyone were to go, I would choose Anthony Kelly, the director of pro personnel. Even then, given the coaching staff’s general lack of coaching ability ever since Adam Gase left, I feel like that would be a huge overreaction.
Everyone knows this team is too good to be 3-8. And deep down, everyone knows Ryan Pace doesn’t deserve to lose his job. He’s been doing a really good job so far in his reign, and this upcoming offseason will be a real testament as to the future of the organization.
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