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How Good is the Bears GM Gig: Three Questions with [REDACTED]

| January 11th, 2022


A neighborhood friend of mine has been in the upper echelon of several NFL organizations, including in his current role. I texted him three questions regarding the Bears GM opening. His answers are below, corrected for grammar (with his approval).

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Question One: Generally speaking, how good is this job?

Great. In the last month, about twenty personnel guys around the league have asked me what I thought was happening with Ryan. That’s why I finally asked you. [I believe this was the first time he ever asked me for information.] The job comes with a lot of scrutiny but if you win, that’s your legacy. And because they sadly have not won often, the job has more long-term value than say Pittsburgh or Green Bay.

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Question Two: Is Justin Fields viewed as an asset?

I’m a fan. And I know a lot of other guys are too. Just knowing you don’t have to deal with that position for a couple years while you build a roster is something that candidates will find very attractive.

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Question Three: Without studying the Bears, where would you start?

I think the Bears have a lot of players that are “good enough” at key positions. But they need more blue chippers. How many do they have on that offense? Montgomery. Mooney has potential. That’s it right now. You need like five of those guys on both sides of the ball these days. The Bears have never, really for decades, been a team you line up against and fear them putting 40 on you. That has to change.

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Details on the Firings of Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy

| January 10th, 2022


I have been pretty locked in on the thinking of Bears ownership over the last few months, actually working a few friends harder than I normally would for information. Here’s the fruits of those efforts.

  • Matt Nagy began to fall out of favor with ownership this summer. George McCaskey, and Ted Phillips, shared my outrage with how the quarterback position was being handled. George was physically moved to see Justin Fields receive a standing ovation at a preseason game and could not understand why Nagy, and to a lesser degree Pace, were eschewing that enthusiasm to play a journeyman quarterback.
  • Despite what has been reported, George never instructed Nagy to play Fields. But he did, almost weekly, ask WHY Fields wasn’t playing. The problem? Nagy’s answers never held water. When the coach would resort to tired phrases about the kid not being “ready”, the owner wanted to know what that actually meant. Nagy could never communicate that effectively.
  • The Bears decided to fire Nagy before Thanksgiving, but never entertained the idea of firing him in-season. Nagy never lost the locker room; the team constantly played with effort. The Bears are comfortable waiting until the season is over. Nagy was NOT told that week.
    • On the Patch report, the same source tried to leak that story to many journalists and non-journalists like me. We vetted it. It had no merit.
    • The Bears were furious about the story getting traction. And they still can’t believe they faced criticism for a bullshit story.
  • The decision to fire Ryan Pace was far more complicated and took FAR longer. Some highlights:
    • The Bears, through back channels, used a series of consultants to evaluate the whole of their football operation. Bill Polian was involved. Tony Dungy was involved. In the early stages of that process, the recommendation was veering towards only replacing Pace if they could land an
    • established GM. But at the conclusion of the process, the formal recommendation was for the Bears to move on.
    • Ozzie Newsome was approached about a formal role in the organization. He chose to remain retired.
    • The Bears put out feelers to both Kevin Colbert and John Schneider, gauging potential availability and interest. (I honestly don’t know the outcomes of those feelers, but Colbert is retiring from the Steelers after this coming draft.)
    • The Bears have been pretty definitively firing Pace for a few weeks. But it became “official” last Wednesday.
    • Polian helped compile a list of a dozen GM candidates and those meetings will begin immediately. I do not know what his involvement will be in the coming weeks.

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DBB on The Irish Bears Show, Discussing Ryan Pace’s Decided Fate

| January 7th, 2022

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What Do You Write When There’s Nothing to Write About?

| January 3rd, 2022


You see them sprouting up across the internet.

“Five Things the Bears Can Learn from Their Game with the Giants.”

“Which Bears Have Something to Prove Sunday?”

“Why Bears vs. Vikings Matters.”

There is nothing to learn.

Nobody is proving anything.

It doesn’t matter.

These are the sad facts of playing out the string, down the stretch of an NFL season, especially when there’s major organizational change coming in the off-season. It was nice to see the Bears put on a fun show for their fans Sunday at Soldier Field, harassing a Giants offense that would politely be described as sub-professional. Matt Nagy’s team has not quit, and the schedule has presented them with some beatable opponents, keeping the season from being an embarrassment.

But while we all want to find value in each of the 17 games we are given to watch each year, the truth is there’s little to be found in these contests. And there is a certain disingenuousness to writing about them with any level of seriousness. (Star Trib columnist Jim Souhan actually used a game quarterbacked by Sean Mannion as “final proof” that Mike Zimmer should be fired in Minnesota.) There is rarely any correlation between how a team finishes one season and how they begin the next one. There are simply too many variables, too much turnover.

And a week from today, Monday January 10th, a new era will begin for the Chicago Bears. Coach Nagy will be fired; a very good man who just never developed into a very good coach. GM Ryan Pace likely will too; a solid talent evaluator paying the price for whiffing on his two most important decisions. All focus will shift to finding their replacements. The final games of this season will be completely forgotten.

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With Urban Meyer’s Firing, Bears Need to Expedite Decisions on Nagy, Pace

| December 17th, 2021


[Note: The game preview will be published Monday, as it seems pointless to analyze a game three days out when both teams are already in advanced Covid protocols.]

On Wednesday morning, the Las Vegas Raiders were the only team affirmatively looking for a new head for the coming season. And while there is certainly some appeal to coaching in Vegas, that job comes with an expensive question mark at quarterback and 17 road games.

On Thursday morning, after the late-night firing of Urban Meyer in Jacksonville, there is now a second team looking for a new coach. That team plays their football in Florida, a state with no income tax. That team possesses Trevor Lawrence, a quarterback that has as much talent as any player at the position in the league. While it may be the league’s worst professional football market, the job will have significant appeal because of those two elements.

On December 28th, the interview window opens for assistant coaches. And the Bears must be active in that window. That means two things:

  • George McCaskey must make his determination on Ryan Pace quickly and decide who is going to hire the next head coach.
  • Matt Nagy must be let go prior to the 28th so the Bears can begin conversations with a host of capable assistants that are likely to make a deep run into the postseason. It is conceivable the Bears could identify their man before the end of the regular season and allow that coach to begin assembling his staff prior to the end of the postseason. (Not officially, of course, but that’s how it’ll happen.)

The decision on Nagy is made. He is not going to be the coach in 2022. Jacksonville’s sacking of Meyer means the Bears will now have serious competition in the head coach market and there is another team that can match Chicago’s offer of a young, potential star quarterback.

This is the time for an historically reactive franchise to be proactive. They have to get this coaching hire right, for their future and the future of Justin Fields. That process begins December 28th.

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228 Comments

Data: A Twitter Thread on Ryan Pace’s Roster Debacles

| December 16th, 2021

The Bears are reportedly still unsure on Ryan Pace. Let’s check in on some of his big contracts, shall we?

On offense, there are 5 veterans making >$5M/year: Allen Robinson, Cody Whitehair, Andy Dalton, Nick Foles, and Jimmy Graham.

Andy Dalton is being paid $10M to be a bad QB for 5 games. His ANY/A+ is an 83, meaning he’s 17% worse than a league average QB. $10M well spent.

Nick Foles is getting $8M/year to not even appear in a game this year.

Jimmy Graham is getting $8M/year to play 27% of his offense’s snaps (78th among TE) and have 108 receiving yards (61st).

That’s a total of $26M – 14% of the salary cap – for backups.

Now to the starters:

Allen Robinson is getting $18M this year, which is 8th among WRs in $$/year. He’s currently 73rd among NFL WRs in receiving yards, and his catch %, yards/target, and yards/reception are sub-par for the position (and way down from the last several years).

Cody Whitehair is getting paid $10.25M/year (12th among NFL G). There’s no great way to quantify OL play, but PFF has him with a 64.5 grade, which is 36th among guards. That’s the closest the Bears’ offense can come to a guy living up to his contract.

Add it all up, and the Bears are spending a total of $54M a year on these 5 veterans, who are rewarding that investment by providing Chicago with 3 backups, 1 bad starter, and 1 average starter. Tell me more about how you’re unsure if Ryan Pace should be fired…

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Mitch, Matt & Missing Playmakers: Why the Ryan Pace Era Should Be Over

| December 6th, 2021


Dave Wasserman is the savviest political analyst in the country. He’s not a partisan hack, pontificating endlessly to halfwits like Chuck Todd about why Issue X plays in rural Virginia and Issue Y doesn’t in Maricopa County. Wasserman is focused on the numbers, the data, and made his bones focusing on congressional redistricting maps. (His Twitter feed is aptly handled @Redistrict.) On election nights, Wasserman pours through the data, county-by-county, and is often able to call races (accurately, mind you) well before the networks. When he’s ready to make the call, he turns to his catchphrase: I’ve seen enough. 

Well, I’ve seen enough.

Forget reassignment. Forget restructuring the front office. When George McCaskey finally fires Matt Nagy, he must also fire Ryan Pace. Pace has done several valuable things as GM of the Chicago Bears, but this organization’s dearth of talent at several key positions – positions vital to the development and success of Justin Fields – can no longer be overlooked. It is time for a new direction.

There are two fatal flaws of the Pace tenure: he drafted Mitch Trubisky and he hired Matt Nagy. Those mistakes have been discussed ad nauseum and need not be reiterated here. But watching the Bears fall to the Cardinals Sunday, a third fatal flaw became all-too-apparent once again. The Bears have simply failed to add enough game-changing playmakers in his seven years on the job.

Darnell Mooney is a terrific player and will thrive in a more coherent offensive system next season. But is there another pass catcher on this roster that even mildly concerns opposing defenses? Allen Robinson is headed towards a one-year prove it deal in New England. Goodwin, Byrd and Grant are practice squad players for the top teams in the league. Cole Kmet is a viable piece of an offensive attack but he’s not in the conversation with the marquee tight ends and he never will be. (To Kmet’s credit, that was not the expectation of him coming out of college.)

Their backfield is good. David Montgomery is a brilliant running back and there will be teams calling for his services this off-season. But while Tarik Cohen’s production earned him a hefty payday, his injury seems to have completely derailed any semblance of an explosive screen game. The Bears valued that role to the tune of $17 million but have seen no reason to replace him in the lineup. Has anyone asked why?

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Short Column: For Pace, Teven Jenkins Could Hold Key to His Future in Chicago

| December 2nd, 2021


The jury is out on Justin Fields, and will remain out for the next season or so. But the Bears, and more specifically the folks who own the Bears, have been wildly impressed with the young signal caller – on and off the field – and believe the organization may have finally solved it’s most definitive, idiosyncratic dilemma. Said an individual close to ownership, “They know the situation is not ideal but he’s handling it with class.”

The debate currently raging (possibly too strong a word, but emotions are high) through the Halls of Halas is whether the acquisition of said signal caller is enough to warrant keeping the personnel man responsible for that acquisition in his job. As Ryan Pace prepares to make his case to the McCaskey family, a key piece of the argument currently resides on IR: Teven Jenkins.

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After Sunday, the Bears have five games remaining. If Jenkins can get back on the field in 2021, even for the final 2-3 games, and show glimpses of premier left tackle play, Pace can argue his 2021 draft as potentially organization defining. (Few teams come out of a single draft with franchise players at both quarterback and left tackle.) Pace has made plenty of mistakes – Mitch and Matt predominantly – but the Bears believe in his leadership and also believe he’s improving in the job. Jenkins performing at a high level might give ownership that confidence that he’s capable of the next major task: building around Justin Fields.

The merits of that confidence would be, let’s just say, debatable. But as the head coach’s fate has become clear in recent weeks, the focus of ownership has shifted almost entirely to evaluating their GM. Jenkins playing, and playing well, could alter that evaluation.

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Bump: George McCaskey Should Fire Matt Nagy.

| November 22nd, 2021

UPDATE 11/21/21. There is no reason to recap Sunday’s train wreck loss to the undermanned Baltimore Ravens. This is over for Matt Nagy. Time to make it official. Waiting no longer makes sense.

This piece originally ran after the Tampa game.


Nate Tice, son of the the legendary Mike Tice and one of the better young NFL analysts got me through Monday with a Twitter thread.

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Not having any desire to sit through Sunday’s debacle again, it was nice to see Tice confirm what I had believed in real time: that Justin Fields had zero chance to succeed in Tampa. This was Cleveland redux and the entirety of the blame falls onto the shoulders of the head coach. The game plan made no sense. The offense, now in fourth season, makes no sense. And we are now at that moment in the development of this young quarterback where the most important question has been answered. Matt Nagy is not now, and will never be, the right man to maximize the ability of Fields.

A source close to ownership texted me Monday morning that Halas Hall was “fed up” with the head coach. They should be. But being fed up is not enough. George McCaskey should fire Matt Nagy. Today, next week, on the bye, whenever. But Nagy shouldn’t make it to the end of the season. If only for the symbolism alone, a message to the fans that this simply isn’t good enough.

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