It started with a dinner.
Dan Wiederer told the tale.
Ryan Pace had a “covert” dinner with Mitch Trubisky at a steakhouse in Chapel Hill. The reservation, made by Mitch, was under the name Jim McMahon. History! Trubisky drove a Datsun or Pinto or something. Humility! The Bears decided this was their quarterback of the future because he seemed to check all the intangible boxes found on a form Pace stole from a locked drawer in Sean Payton’s desk.
It didn’t work. And the scrutiny started quickly. What didn’t Pace like about Patrick Mahomes? Why didn’t he meet with Deshaun Watson? What about Trubisky was SO impressive – it certainly wasn’t his collegiate production – that it led the Bears GM to throw horse blinders on and ignore everybody else?
The Pace tenure had become defined by those months leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft and the production of the men he decided not to take. Sure, he whiffed on Kevin White, reached (ridiculously) for Adam Shaheen and tossed some money away on Robert Quinn. But every GM misses on picks and spends money ineffectively in free agency. Trubisky was the story. And that mistake, compounded by Pace’s inability to correct it (an improbable task, to be fair) was the entire narrative. Every positive move, including rebuilding the worst defense in Chicago Bears history, was shuffled into the shadows.
Come the end of the 2020 season, the expectations were that Pace would be GM no longer. The Bears were coming off back-to-back mediocre seasons, with a flop quarterback and an aging defense. Change felt inevitable, whether that be the coach, the GM or long-time team president Ted Phillips. GMs don’t get second chances to find franchise quarterbacks. Owners, especially in this modern, last-place-to-first-place-yearly NFL, are not patient individuals. It’s been well-discussed how much George McCaskey likes Pace but an owner’s love plus $5.99 will get you a double cheese at the Billy Goat.
They stood pat. They delivered an awkward press conference, preached collaboration, and maintained an organizational status quo. McCaskey and Phillips trusted their instincts, leaning on their belief that Pace – still only 44 years old – was not a completed picture. In any line of work, one usually improves with time and experience and the Bears believed the same would be true for Pace. It was not a decision met favorably by those who cover and cheer for the Chicago Bears. Many claimed it was the Bears acting like 8-8 was perfectly acceptable. But anyone listening to that presser heard a distinct refrain: it was about the quarterback. Pace was admitting his Trubisky failure and vowing to make amends THIS offseason.
As the draft closed in, that vow seemed like horseshit.