An NFL franchise does not begin the process of rebuilding until they find their quarterback. They can change coaches and front office personnel. They can turn over their roster; get younger, quicker, more athletic. But until they find the man who will play the most important position in all of sports, they can’t pretend what they are building is a team capable of contending consistently, year in, year out.
Ryan Pace has his quarterback. And he treated the 2018 NFL Draft differently because of it. No longer was the young GM looking for freakish athleticism and under-performing college guys with upside. No longer was he willing to bypass win-now needs for the myth of “best player available”. All but one of the seven players selected by Pace and his staff over three days in Dallas fit a clear and distinct need for this franchise now, today, for the 2018 campaign.
Roquan Smith, James Daniels and Anthony Miller will be in starting roles against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night, September 9th. If they’re not, it’s a problem.
The Bears needed a rotational defensive end, edge rusher and more receiving help. They drafted Bilal Nichols, Kylie Fitts and Javon Wims respectively. None of these three are guaranteed contributors – nobody on day three is – but that doesn’t mean the Bears didn’t draft them to be. There are no developmental prospects in this group. These guys are going to be asked to play the positions they played well in college at the next level.
The outlier of the class is Joel Iyegbuniwe – an inside linebacker who will have a difficult time getting on the field this coming season, outside of special teams. But if the correlating move involves Nick Kwiatkoski moving out to the edge – a position of need – then it fits comfortably into this new draft narrative for Pace.
This is a win-now class for a win-now organization. No, it doesn’t mean the Bears should be expected to compete for a championship in 2018. There are too many moving parts, too many new pieces. But it does mean they should be expected to compete. Week-in and week-out. And not only compete but win. If the Bears are not playing meaningful games in the month of December, the late Wellington Mara’s definition of a successful year, this season will be an unmitigated failure.
But this isn’t news to Ryan Pace. He knows the pressure is now on his regime to win games. And he drafted like it. The English poet John Dryden once said, “Beware the fury of a patient man.” Bears fans have been patient with the Pace regime to this point. If the wins don’t come now, the fury surely will.