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ATM: Is Ryan Pace’s Former Crush Marcus Mariota the Right Target?

| March 3rd, 2020

Ryan Pace’s first draft quarterback crush could be the guy who saves his job.

The young GM had been on the job for just a few months and the rumor mill was swirling. The thought was that he wanted to package Jay Cutler with the seventh overall pick for the second pick and the chance to select Marcus Mariota. When asked about the possible trade, Pace didn’t say much. He also didn’t deny it.

The Titans balked and took Mariota. The Bears stayed at seven, took Kevin White and stuck with Cutler for two more years. It’s safe to say they might both have been worse off than if they had just done the deal.

On the surface Mariota doesn’t seem like much of an upgrade over Trubisky.

  • Mariota has a career passer rating of 89.6, averaging 7.5 yards per attempt and throws touchdowns on 4.4 percent of his attempts.
  • Trubisky’s rating sits at 85.8 with 6.7 yards per attempt and a touchdown percentage of 3.8.
  • The Titans have gone 29-32 in Mariota’s starts and their offense exploded in 2019 after he was benched and another former first round disappointment Ryan Tannehill led them to the AFC Championship game.
  • The Bears have gone 23-18 with Trubisky.

But the raw numbers don’t really tell the story of Mariota. Or Trubisky, for that matter.

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Defending Ryan Pace. Well, Sorta.

| January 7th, 2020


Grading NFL general managers is not a simple process. Most are happy with hit rates of 50% in the draft. Most make mistakes in free agency. Most haven’t created perfect rosters because the salary cap makes a “perfect roster” impossible. Most get a coach hire wrong at some stage.

Ryan Pace took over the Bears after they had just completed the most embarrassingly pitiful defensive season in franchise history. He took them over after a season where they embarrassed the city and fan base on and off the field. Five years later they have the most talented defensive roster in the league. Five years later they are a tight, cohesive group. That’s not easy. Everyone doesn’t do that. As a friend, who scouts for another franchise told me, “it’s a top five roster”.

But Pace, to the objective eye, has three deficient positions. And they’re not minor.


Quarterback.

He loved Marcus Mariota. Mariota is not any good.

He thought Mike Glennon could hold down the fort for a year and lead the Bears to a winning season. Glennon is not any good.

He has seemingly put his career on the line for Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky, it turns out, is not any good.

Pay no attention to the lip service paid at the postseason press conference. Pace is not going to let Trubisky go unchallenged into 2020 and risk his entire tenure on one of the game’s worst quarterbacks. Pace is beloved by ownership. They want desperately for him to be at the helm of football operations for years to come. But they will not patiently allow Trubisky to destroy what they believed was built in 2018.

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ATM: Welcome to the Hot Seat, Ryan Pace

| November 5th, 2019

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?

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Lists, Lists and More Stupid Lists: An ATM Special Report

| May 29th, 2019

Last week we reached the part of the offseason where various media members began releasing lists ranking random NFL players, executives and pretty much anything else they can think of with the hope that it will create conversation amongst the fan bases.

While the number of lists released are too numerous to count, there were three that I found particularly interesting.


Bears Top 100

I’m not sure anybody alive is actually qualified to rank the 100 best players in the history of the Chicago Bears, but Dan Pompei and Don Pierson are as close as it gets.

I have nothing to add to players who retired before I was born and very little to say about the 1980s greats of whom I saw very little. But it still seems odd to me that Brian Urlacher wasn’t higher on the list.

Urlacher was a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection, whereas Richard Dent was really more of an afterthought and Jimbo Covert isn’t in at all — and doesn’t seem likely to get in. Yet both Dent and Covert ranked higher than Urlacher.

I’m cool with Devin Hester being second among the 2000s Bears, but Charles Tillman should’ve been ahead of Lance Briggs. Briggs was more recognized because he was Urlacher’s battery mate, but Tillman was the better player.

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Debating the ‘Value’ Of David Montgomery

| May 7th, 2019

Shortly after the 2019 NFL Draft, the Ryan Pace detractors were at it again, claiming the Bears GM “wasted” a pick by trading up to grab Iowa State running back David Montgomery.

The attacks, made by noted Pace-hater Bill Barnwell (among others), are more about Pace’s selection philosophy than his actual selections. Writers often like to live in a dream world where draft picks are more valuable than actually having quality players. Oh, and none of those picks should be used on a running back!

GMs live in the real world. They realize they have to acquire good players and can’t sit back and wait for life to happen to them. That is part of the reason why Phil Emery is a scout for the Falcons, not GM of the Bears. Of course, we shouldn’t expect Barnwell to understand that.

The case of Montgomery was especially delicious to critics because a running back many of them liked more — Alabama’s Damien Harris — went with Chicago’s original pick, 87 overall, to the New England Patriots. Why move up 14 spots to draft a worse player? Well, it’s pretty simple really: they liked Montgomery more. A lot more.

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Analyzing Chicago’s Roster Needs Heading Into the Draft

| April 22nd, 2019

The draft is this week so it’s time to think seriously about what positions the Bears need to address with their limited picks. Let’s start by taking a look at their current roster so we can see what positions they might need more help at. My best guess at an approximate depth chart if they played a game this week is shown below.


 


A few thoughts:

  • This list has 48 names on it. Teams dress 46 players for game day. Remove one of the kickers and probably Nick Williams and that’s your 46 man active roster.
  • Honestly, where are the holes on that roster? Kicker is one, but otherwise running back is the weakest spot, and even that isn’t completely terrible. Outside of those two positions, it’s hard to see a spot where a rookie is going to beat out the veteran ahead of him for a spot on the active roster.
  • Combine the caliber of this roster with the lack of high picks for the Bears, and Chicago is probably not looking at rookies making instant impact in 2019 outside of running back and kicker (barring injury).
  • One exception to this might be on special teams. The Bears lost core special teamers in Josh Bellamy, Benny Cunningham, and Daniel Brown this offseason, and only brought in one veteran to replace them in Marvin Hall. There are snaps to be earned on special teams in training camp, and rookies at positions like TE, LB, CB, and S could be in that mix.

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How Well has Ryan Pace drafted? (Spoiler Alert: Very.)

| March 18th, 2019

The Bears were really good in 2018, and are poised to be good for the next few years. The man responsible for that turnaround is Ryan Pace. He has used a combination of draft picks and free agents to assemble nearly the entirety of one of the most talented rosters in football.

But somehow Pace doesn’t get his due as one of the best general managers in the NFL, largely because he got a lot of bad press early on as he oversaw three necessary losing seasons to overhaul one of the oldest and worst rosters in the league. But I’m here to fix that today by highlighting just how good he’s been at the most important part of a GM’s job: drafting.

The premise of this study is simple enough: try to find a way to quantify how well teams have drafted since 2015. Of course, that’s easier said than done, because how do you quantify a draft? There is no one perfect metric to measure the success of a draft pick, so instead I used a bunch, hoping that they would combine overall to give us a clearer picture of draft success.

Here are the metrics I used, with a quick explainer for each:

  • 1st team All-Pro nods: This is meant to be a measure of how well a team acquires top-end talent, the guys who can lead your roster to a championship.
  • Pro Bowl berths: Similar to All-Pros, but less demanding. Really good players can be Pro Bowlers without becoming All-Pros. Think of this as a measure of really good but not great starters.
  • Seasons as a starter: This is then intended to measure how many solid players teams acquire in a draft.
  • Career Added Value (AV): Pro Football Reference assigns a value to every season for every player, so I added this up for every draft pick from 2015-18. Higher AV = more total value from your draft picks (at least in theory).
  • Games played: This is more a measure of total depth measure than anything, because it counts everybody on the active roster the same. Basically a measure of how many picks stick around to contribute in some way, even if that’s mainly special teams.

Total data for every team (from Pro Football Reference) can be viewed below, with the teams placed in alphabetical order and average values for each metric on the bottom row.


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Commentary on & Criticism of the Year-End Pace/Nagy Press Conference

| January 14th, 2019

Thoughts Before the Press Conference

  • Nobody should expect to hear Pace or Nagy address Cody Parkey’s future or the Today Show appearance. But both questions must be asked. What absolutely cannot be said today is “Parkey is our kicker next season.” This organization can no longer show blind, ignorant loyalty to an inadequate player.
  • It’ll be interesting to hear how each man discusses Chuck Pagano’s addition. I suspect neither was thrilled with the game Vic Fangio called against the Eagles so it won’t be surprising for them to signal what Pagano will change on that side of the ball.
  • The Kareem Hunt conversation is going to get started soon enough. Wonder if it is today. Reclamation projects are very possible in this league (See: Hill, Tyreek) and it is unlikely Hunt won’t be in the NFL next season. Unlike Ray Rice – whose career was already essentially over at the time of his incident – Hunt will only be 25 years old when the 2019 season kicks off.

Thoughts During & After

  • The tone was established with Pace’s opening remarks. “Proud of what we accomplished but not satisfied” and “stay on the right track” were clearly what the GM wanted to communicate.
  • Pagano. Pace made it clear the hiring was made by Nagy, not him. Nagy used the two words I expected to here: attacking and aggressive.
  • Parkey was brought up almost immediately. Two things: (1) Pace sounded like Parkey was going somewhere else. (2) Nagy said Parkey didn’t mention Today Show appearance in their exit interview, and seemed displeased with the whole ordeal. He made it clear it was a “me” gesture not a “we” one. Parkey is gone.

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ATM: Pace Deserves Blame

| January 8th, 2019

Tomorrow is guaranteed to no one and Super Bowl contenders don’t come around often, especially in Chicago. And the Bears are home because Ryan Pace ignored what everyone else knew was a fatal flaw and kept Cody Parkey at kicker.

The fact that the last second kick was officially changed to a block doesn’t really matter. That tells us Parkey didn’t get enough air on what should’ve been an easy kick. A 43-yard kick shouldn’t have to be a line drive and it shouldn’t be blocked at the line of scrimmage. That’s just as bad as missing it outright.

Blame Parkey all you want, but did anybody think he was going to make it? If you let a toddler poor milk into his cereal, he’s going to spill the milk. If a cat sees a pen on the counter, he’s going to knock that fucking pen OFF THE COUNTER. If a bad kicker has a shot at a big kick, he’s going to miss.

These are commonly known facts. Why didn’t Pace know them?

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