It seems like a foregone conclusion that Ryan Pace’s job is safe. But should it be?
The 2019 Bears are looking at a 6-10 season, just one win better than the embarrassing, dysfunctional 2014 team Pace inherited. We haven’t gotten the consecutive embarrassing losses or locker room fights like we did in 2014, but there’s still time.
The talent levels of the teams aren’t all that different when you consider very few of the offensive starters from the 2019 version would start for the 2014 team and the gigantic difference at quarterback. This defense is a lot better than the 2014 unit but you could still argue a couple defenders from that squad — Jay Ratliff and Willie Young — would start on this year’s defense.
2019 will never reach 2014 in terms of dysfunction, but they may be well past them in terms of disappointment.
The Bears will be winning fewer than eight games for the fourth time in Pace’s five years as general manager and his decision to take Mitchell Trubisky over a sure thing in Deshaun Watson and a guy some already consider to be the best quarterback they’ve ever seen in Patrick Mahomes has become a joke. NFL owners don’t like when their team is a joke.
One can argue that Pace actually built a very strong and talented roster, but this is a quarterback’s league and is there’s any reason to think Pace can get that position right?
Pace moved on from Jay Cutler at the right time, but replacing him with a combination of Mike Glennon and Trubisky makes it fair to question if he has any idea what the hell he’s doing at the game’s most crucial position. Also consider the rumors that he wanted to trade Cutler and the seventh pick to move up to draft Marcus Mariota – you know, Ryan Tannehill’s backup – and we’ve got a problem here.
Is the best-case scenario for Bears that Pace is a poor man’s Rick Spielman? (Hey, Trubisky is suspiciously like Christian Ponder.)
While a merely competent quarterback probably would’ve been enough to at least make the playoffs this year, there’s no guarantee that will happen next year if the defense slips into mediocrity. They’ll likely lose Danny Trevathan and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix this offseason, with no replacements lined up. They’ll also likely let Prince Amukamara go, again without replacement. Add in the fact that Akiem Hicks is going to be 30 years old and apparently has a bum knee; you can feel the breeze from a Super Bowl window that is potentially slamming shut.
The one thing that might save Pace’s job is that he hired Matt Nagy and not another Marc Trestman. While he hasn’t been able to get the offense on track — have you seen in quarterback? — there’s no question that Nagy is a leader who takes it on the chin for his team’s deficiencies.
You can forget about any scenario in which Nagy gets fired and Pace keeps his job. Nobody can really think Pace is going to get a third shot at hiring a head coach, can they?
But Nagy could be Pace’s undoing. If he comes away from meetings thinking Pace doesn’t know anything about scouting the position, he could convince the McCaskey family to replace the GM with someone who does. Or at least someone who will just let Nagy figure it out — Louis Riddick, perhaps?
We’re not at that point yet. The 12-win 2018 season will likely save everybody’s job for at least one year. Pace will get one more crack at finding a quarterback. One more year. The hot seat.