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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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After 99 Years, the Bears are Finally Exciting.

| November 26th, 2018

The 2018 Chicago Bears season has been as surprising as any in my lifetime, soon to hopefully be entering it’s 37th year. It is certainly as surprising as any since the launch of this website in early 2005.

It’s not that the team has been competitive. That was expected. It’s not even that the team is winning. Many of us saw a clear path to eight plus victories even before Ryan Pace acquired one of the sport’s two most dominant defensive humans.

No, this season has been surprising – shocking, even – because of the seismic cultural and identity shift that has occurred at Halas Hall. Seemingly overnight, but of course decidedly not overnight, the Chicago Bears have transformed themselves not only into one of the league’s better teams but unquestionably one of the league’s most exciting.


These are the Chicago Bears, aren’t they?

Their most prolific passing campaign before Erik Kramer’s 1995 one-off was in 1943. For a few periods of the Lovie Smith era, a few weeks of the Trestman tenure and a few moments of the Ditka days they could score points in bunches. But this organization hasn’t done anything one could deem “exciting” on offense since Clark Shaughessy helped the team implement the “T” to beat the Washington Redskins 73-0 in the 1940 NFL Championship Game.

Efficient? Sure. Effective? Okay. Hell, even excellent at times. But exciting? No chance. Devin Hester is the most exciting offensive weapon the Bears have had since Gale Sayers. And Hester literally couldn’t play offense.

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The Message of the Mack Trade

| September 1st, 2018

It’s on.

The time for patience has passed. The time for “Ryan Pace is building something interesting” has come and gone. The time for taking an emotionally balanced approach to this Chicago Bears campaign has boarded the 8:30 AM bus to, I don’t know, like three hours ago! (Forgive the shitty writing there but I’m pretty damn excited and I can’t wrap my head around all of this yet.)

It is on.

Does this move to acquire Khalil Mack from the Oakland Raiders mean they are a contender for the Super Bowl this season? I’d love to write a definitive NO. I’d love to echo Data’s contention that teams don’t go from crap to contender overnight. I’d love to write about the young, developing quarterback and the new coach/system and the quality opponents in the division and the blah blah blabbedy blah.

Ah, who am I kidding? I don’t want to write about any of those things. Because, as you might have noticed, it is definitively on.

In giving up multiple first-round selections for Mack, Pace is announcing that his team as presently built is ready to win far more games than they lose. In paying Mack a pile of money for his services, Pace is announcing that he’s ready to strike Super Bowl gold while his chosen quarterback is still operating on his rookie contract. Fans no longer have reason to be patient because today the Chicago Bears made the most thrillingly impatient move in the history of the franchise.

This wasn’t Jerry Angelo making the move for Jay Cutler. Sure, that was exciting but it was also bringing in a quarterback to a franchise that had never really had one. You can’t win consistently without a quarterback and Angelo understood that.

This move for Mack is about fortification. It is about fixing the only true hole in the defensive dam. It is a clear statement to the fan base that the Bears are not content with being one of the best defenses in the league. They want to be THE BEST. And with Mack added to this unit, they now have every opportunity to be just that.

Isn’t this what we always wanted? Weren’t we all tired of constantly settling for less-than-elite talent at positions across the field? This was the crux of The Great Cutler Debate (“not good enough to win championships”). This has been the crux of the Adrian Amos/PFF nonsense (“he’s a good player, stop believing he’s one of the league’s best”). Bears fans have grown accustomed to a roster of good players who struggle mightily when they square off with great ones, i.e. the fella playing quarterback up in Green Bay.

Today, Ryan Pace got a great one. That’s what Mack is. A great player at one of the most important positions in the sport. With great players come great expectations. Those expectations exist in Chicago, right now.

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Bears Have Increased Their Talent Level. Now, Can They Stay Healthy?

| May 29th, 2018

There has been a growing feeling among local and national media alike this offseason that the Bears are a team on the rise. Several writers have pegged them as one of the most improved teams in the NFL through both the draft and free agency. Peter King recently declared they had “the best offseason of any team in football.”

It’s no secret that the writers for this site all agree the Bears are poised to make a jump in 2018 (though I have cautioned against letting expectations get too high), but today I want to address the elephant in the room: health.

To put it frankly, the Bears can’t expect to be better than the last few years unless they can find a way to stay healthier. In the last four seasons, Chicago has won 5, 6, 3, and 5 games, and in that time they have consistently been among the most injured teams in the NFL, ranking 27th, 28th, 32nd, and 31st in Football OutsidersAdjusted Games Lost (AGL) metric. This is a useful metric because it weighs starters as more valuable than backups and accounts for playing through injuries as well (click the link above for a more detailed description of how it’s calculated).


By the Numbers

In an attempt to quantify the impact injuries have on team performance, I looked at how well teams did compared to how they ranked in the AGL for that season. I looked at the last five years, giving a sample size of 160 teams, and split them into quartiles (8 teams per group per year, so 40 total). Results can be seen in the table below.

[Editor’s Note: Nope, you’re not alone. I had never heard the word “quartile” either.]

These results clearly show the importance of staying healthy.

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Like ‘Em or Not, These Are the Chicago Bears For the Foreseeable Future

| May 22nd, 2018

Since Ryan Pace showed up in 2015, there has been nearly complete roster turnover, with only Kyle Long, Charles Leno, Sherrick McManis, and Pat O’Donnell remaining from the previous regime. Every single offseason has seen significant changes, with a host of prominent players leaving and a sizable new batch of faces coming in.

Consequently, Bears fans are used to offseasons of sweeping change. But that pattern should end in 2019. To understand why, let’s look at who is already under contract on both sides of the ball.


Offense

Key players under contract: QB Mitchell Trubisky, RB Jordan Howard, RB Tarik Cohen, WR Allen Robinson, WR Taylor Gabriel, WR Anthony Miller, WR Javon Wims, TE Trey Burton, TE Adam Shaheen, LT Charles Leno, LG James Daniels, C Cody Whitehair, RG Kyle Long

Notable free agents: RT Bobby Massie, Eric Kush

Possible Cap Casualties: RG Kyle Long, TE Dion Sims

Chicago’s offense is young and locked-in for the next two years. Nobody on this list except Kyle Long is over 28 years old, and over half of these players are still on rookie deals. 2018 should see the best offense the Bears have had since 2013 (not exactly stiff competition) and there’s every expectation at this point that the same group returning basically intact in 2019 should be even better.

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The Bears Are Young. How Did Ryan Pace Do It?

| May 15th, 2018

When Ryan Pace showed up following the 2014 season, he inherited the 3rd oldest roster in the NFL. The Bears were both old and bad – the worst possible roster combination. In 2018, they will be one of the youngest teams in the league.

The progress has been slow. They moved from 30th the year before Pace came to 19th in 2015 to 10th in 2016, but then stepped back to 22nd in 2017 thanks largely to a number of ill-fated free agent moves (hello, Mike Glennon, Markus Wheaton, and Quentin Demps!). We won’t know the exact numbers until rosters are cut down, but the Bears’ average age in 2018 is going to be somewhere around 25 years old, which will likely place them as one of the 5 youngest teams in the league.

Looking at their 90-man roster right now, there are only 4 players who will be 30 when the season starts: backup QB Chase Daniels and 3 guys who are primarily special teamers (Sherrick McManis, Patrick Scales, and Sam Acho). On the flip side, there will be a host of key players who are under 25, include Mitchell Trubisky, Jordan Howard, Anthony Miller, James Daniels, Cody Whitehair, Eddie Goldman, Roquan Smith, and Eddie Jackson. To put into perspective just how young the Bears will be, the 26 year old Leonard Floyd will be above average for a starter.

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The Pace Priorities: Examining the GM’s Positional Values Through Draft Investment

| May 8th, 2018

Ryan Pace has now had four drafts with the Chicago Bears, meaning that everybody playing on a rookie deal in Chicago was acquired by him. Accordingly, I think it’s worth looking at what positions in which he has invested the most and least draft capital.

This will give us an idea of what positions Pace prioritizes, and also help us see where the Bears might need to focus their draft attention in the next few years. It’s worth noting that free agency decisions and how well players pan out influence these too, but I think you’ll see positions which have been ignored in the draft are largely the ones with the biggest roster needs.


Heavy Investment

There are several positions where Ryan Pace has made a significant investment with high draft picks, seeming to indicate these are the positions he values most on the roster. Let’s look at what the positions are, what the draft investment has been, and what the future looks like at those positions.

  • Quarterback: Ryan Pace has spent only one pick on a quarterback, snagging Mitchell Trubisky in 2017, but he traded up to the 2nd pick in the draft to do so. At a position where only one player plays, a top 5 pick is a heavy investment, and they don’t figure to be investing additional significant draft capital at the position for at least a few more years.

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Data Entry: Reflections on the 2018 NFL Draft Haul

| May 1st, 2018

Before the draft, I looked in-depth at Ryan Pace’s draft trends from 2015-17 and used them to make predictions for what would happen in 2018. Well, it turns out Pace’s approach changed a good bit this year. Let’s look at those identified trends to see which ones were and were not followed.


Day One

  • Go get your guy. The Bears reportedly tried to trade up from pick #8 to get somebody Ryan Pace really wanted. He continues to be very aggressive targeting his chosen players at the top of the draft.
  • Replace a veteran. Every round one pick has been made to replace a high-profile veteran who recently left. That continued this year with Roquan Smith replacing Jerrell Freeman.
  • Prototype prospects. Pace loves his athletes at the top of the draft, but that changed a bit this year. Roquan Smith is still extremely athletic, but he was not the physical prototype Tremaine Edmunds was. Pace went for the better player right now instead of the player with the highest ceiling, a definite shift in approach.

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