The Ryan Pace Mistakes

The Ryan Pace Mistakes

Year two of the Ryan Pace era as Chicago Bears general manager is over. After the Bears’ brutal 38-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, we can say that Pace is officially on the clock to prepare for year three. (Yes, I know preparations had already begun with college and pro scouting.) With nine wins and 23 losses in his first two seasons, including one of the worst seasons in their 96 year history, its difficult to debate against the following: Ryan Pace has made some big mistakes in his first two years as GM.

There are of course several Pace positives we can point to including a year two (2016) draft that could potentially yield a difference-making edge rusher, Leonard Floyd; a Pro Bowl caliber center, Cody Whitehair; and a building-block offensive weapon in fifth-round steal Jordan Howard. But, no fan can convince me that after losing seven of their last eight games this year, even with all of the injuries, player suspensions and poor luck that the Bears will be ready to contend in 2017. Right now, it looks like Pace will need lots of luck, rare good health from all key contributors and suspension-free behavior to successfully execute a five-year rebuilding plan.

What makes the idea of a successful five-year rebuilding plan look dubious are these key Ryan Pace mistakes.

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Ryan Pace Mistakes – No. 1:  Hiring John Fox

On January 16, 2015, the hiring of John Fox as the Bears 18th head coach in their history (George Halas owns three of those stints) was understandable. It was also uninspiring.

Understandable in that the team was coming off two disastrous seasons under Marc Trestman. The former Canadien Football League head coach was a risky-hire brought into modernize the Bears offense and build a winner through 21st century corporate-leadership techniques.  Fox was a long-time NFL head coach who had built his success on what the Bears’ brand had always stood for: Defense.

He brought with him a fairly successful resume and the appearance of being able to lead  an NFL locker room, something Trestman was unable to accomplish.

It was uninspiring because Fox arrived with growing concerns about his ability to win championships.

While he and his former employer, John Elway, have publicly stated that their parting was mutual there’s no question that Elway wanted Fox gone.

The Broncos’ general manager believed Fox was too conservative and unable to get the most of the talent he had assembled. In fact, the next season, after Fox’s “departure,” the Broncos won the Super Bowl. Elway on more than one occasion delivered obvious jabs at Fox’s inability to get a Lombardi Trophy (the Chicago Tribune lists them here) including, “We haven’t consistently played well for 60 minutes.”

That criticism could come from Ryan Pace today. But, it hasn’t. (Another mistake.)

[graphiq id=”k1eixXi2uIl” title=”Chicago Bears Points Scored Per Game Comparison” width=”600″ height=”554″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/k1eixXi2uIl” link=”http://nfl-teams.pointafter.com/l/26/Chicago-Bears” link_text=”PointAfter | Graphiq” ]

The won-lost results are obviously different between the Fox-led Broncos and the Fox-led Bears. It’s clear why. The Broncos were talent laden and made the playoffs in all of Fox’s four seasons. The Bears were drafting early for a reason: lack of talent. But, in essence both of the Fox-led teams were afflicted with the same malady: a lack of gusto from the entire team. It’s what Elway referred to when he said the Broncos were not “kicking and screaming,” while being ousted from the playoffs. For the last two seasons, especially this year, the Bears were never seen kicking and screaming.  In their final two games they lost by a combined score of 79-31.

Many argue that the team’s lack of talent was the primary reason for the Bears historically bad performance in 2016. There’s credence to that argument. But, when a veteran leader of the team oversleeps on game day as Tracy Porter did Sunday and is late for the team bus it is a sign that the players are not only nor kicking and screaming their way to end of the season, they’re snoozing off.

Look at the trajectory of John Fox’s head coaching career and you see a leader getting worse and worse at inspiring players. Part of that may be due to his inconsistent approach to handing out playing time. A player like Jordan Howard could be benched after a fumble and another, like Josh Bellamy, see increased playing time after dropping pass after pass.

Take look at his two years in Chicago at you see multiple errors at clock management and scheming — vowing the team is a run first offense but throwing 62.22%, tenth highest in NFL.

See the riff between Fox and his best coordinator, Vic Fangio, and you sense the stubbornness that steamed Elway.

[graphiq id=”4JJVFmGkx2B” title=”2016 NFC Standings (2016)” width=”600″ height=”846″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/4JJVFmGkx2B” link=”http://nfl-teams.pointafter.com/l/26/Chicago-Bears” link_text=”PointAfter | Graphiq” ]

When the Bears were 1-6 Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported that the Bears were bringing in an outside consulting firm to look at the entire Bears operations and there were intense meetings involving members of the front office and some coaches. The Bears won that week against the Vikings to quell the consulting firm rumors, but in that same report, Rapoport cited other NFL executives as wondering if Fox was as invested in the Bears head coaching responsibilities as he’s been in the past. I wonder, too.

Bottom line is this: Fox has won just four of his past 21 games with the Bears. Even with the startling amount of injuries, that kind of record points at an ineffective coaching staff.

John Fox was Ryan Pace’s first big mistake.

Ryan Pace Mistakes – No. 2:  Not Drafting A Quarterback

Seven quarterbacks were drafted in Pace’s first year as general manager. He was unable to work out a deal to move up and choose Marcus Mariota, who he was enamored with. It says a lot that Pace identified Mariota’s potential.

It also says a lot that he did not see potential in any of the other quarterbacks drafted after Mariota. All are still on NFL rosters and seventh-ound pick Trevor Siemian has shown promise as he beat out highly regarded 2016 draft pick Paxton Lynch and veteran Mark Sanchez for the starting job.

The jury is still out on the other quarterbacks, but all are still on NFL rosters.

In Pace’s second draft, far more quarterbacks were drafted (15) and again he failed to pull the trigger on a developmental player. If Pace gets credit for identifying Mariota’s potential, then he deserves demerits for not identifying the potential of Dak Prescott. Chosen in the fourth round, the Bears had three shots at him in that round alone and failed to take a chance.

[graphiq id=”kBkhf1KOOkl” title=”2016 NFL Draft – Quarterbacks” width=”600″ height=”1000″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/kBkhf1KOOkl” link=”http://ncaa-football-players.pointafter.com” link_text=”PointAfter | Graphiq” ]

Now the Bears go into Pace’s third season with no clear number one quarterback, no developmental quarterback (Matt Barkley failed that tryout) and no strong hope of landing a sure-thing quarterback in the upcoming draft. Pace has, so far,  botched developing the team’s most important position

Ryan Pace Mistakes – No. 3:  Failing To Lock Up Alshon Jeffery to Long-Term Contract

The Bears are a team in need of playmakers. Alshon Jeffery is a playmaker. Yes, his 2016 stat line doesn’t support this, but you won’t win a debate at the Bears Barroom claiming Jeffery isn’t a necessary component of building a winning team. The playmaker opens up the middle of the field, creates space for other receivers and is a proven big play pass catcher.

[graphiq id=”3M1sY6J0js1″ title=”Alshon Jeffery Career Receiving Stats” width=”600″ height=”459″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/3M1sY6J0js1″ link=”http://football-players.pointafter.com/l/10200/Alshon-Jeffery” link_text=”PointAfter | Graphiq” ]

No one outside Jeffery, his agent and the Bears know how far apart Pace and the receiver were in their 2016 negotiations. But the GM’s failure to secure a deal now means that the team will pay more for the wide receiver if they re-sign him at all. Jeffery and his agent are not going to settle for fewer dollars than they were asking for in 2016. The know they’ll find a willing buyer in free agency. The Bears can franchise tag Jeffery, but at over $17 million we can all agree that exceeds his true value.

Pace lost this negotiation. Now, he’s forced to overpay Jeffery because he need the wide receiver more than Jeffery needs the Bears.

Other Ryan Pace Mistakes 

There are several other mistakes that Pace committed and they range from Pace not addressing the fans during the Bears bye week, and in fact, seemingly hiding from the media… to… the signing of Ray McDonald… to the trading Marcellus Bennett without properly identifying a replacement or developmental player.

All of these and more will be addressed in our upcoming Bears Barroom Radio podcast with Jose Cotto, Lorin Cox, Shayne Marsaw, and Phil Ottochian. 

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Look for some upcoming information about our offseason plans for Chicago Bears coverage. You’ll find that information at @BearsBarroom later this week.

Also contributing to this post Jose Cotto, Shayne Marsaw, and Phil Ottochian. 

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Aldo Gandia

Aldo Gandia

Among my career highlights I have produced two films while in high school that received nationwide attention; leaned out of a helicopter over the Gulf of Suez at the age of 20 to shoot movies of oil rigs; won an Emmy award for a sports special and another for a kid's fitness show; and led a team of very talented creative professionals to produce break-through corporate communications.


Tags assigned to this article:
Alshon JefferyJohn FoxRyan Pace

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