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Ryan Pace’s Reversal of Fortune.

| May 3rd, 2021


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.

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ATM: Pace Can Be Trusted When It Comes to Draft

| April 20th, 2021

Since the Bears hired Ryan Pace prior to the 2015 offseason, few teams have made fewer selections in the NFL Draft. But the Bears GM ranks among the best in the league at getting value with the pick he’s made. While misses like Mitch Trubisky, Adam Shaheen and Kevin White receive the most intention – rightfully, when it comes to the quarterback – Pace has been among the best in the league at making picks when it comes to the weighted career approximate value (CarAv). This is a metric used by Pro-Football-Reference.

Since Pace took over the team has made 39 draft picks. The only teams with fewer are Atlanta and New Orleans, while Carolina is tied. With those picks, Pace has managed a total approximate value of 407, just around the middle of the pack since 2015. The average CarAV amongst Pace’s picks is 10.4, the fourth-best average in the league.

Pace is often criticized for not valuing draft picks, but that oft-repeated notion seems unfounded.

  • Of the teams in the top 10 for average CarAV, only one, Baltimore, has used more than 45 draft picks since 2015.
  • Recent Super Bowl winners, Kansas City (42) and Tampa Bay (43), are all in the same ball park.
  • Other annual contenders like New Orleans (37), Buffalo (42) and Tennessee (44) also rank in the top 10.
  • Two other teams who are in the top 10 — Atlanta (38) and Carolina (39) — have made a Super Bowl in that span.
  • The only team in the top 10 without multiple playoff appearances since 2015 is the LA Chargers.

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Are the Bears Trying to Make a Splash at QB? Of Course.

| April 16th, 2021

It was the way Brad Biggs worded his Tweet that caught me somewhat off-guard.



It seems unbelievable because it is, in fact, not believable. The Bears just spent more than a month negotiating with the Seattle Seahawks for Russell Wilson, only to have that deal be shanked in the prison yard by Pete Carroll. (And some high-profile NFL reporters still don’t believe the deal is dead.)

The Bears have been one of a handful of teams still in contact with the Houston Texans regarding Deshaun Watson – a player many in the league believe will not face serious legal issues beyond the current civil complaints. In the short-term, dealing for Watson would be a bit of a PR nightmare. (“Yes, he rubbed his dick on the masseuse but…” is a tough sell in any climate, especially our current one.) In the long-term? I don’t hear Chiefs fans complaining about having Tyreek Hill on their roster and what he did is far worse than what Watson is accused of doing.

And now the team is actively trying to make a huge leap in the draft, to as high as number four, to “solve” their issues at the most important position in team sports.

This is not new for the Chicago Bears. Despite what is constantly uttered about the team’s ownership, they have been aggressively trying to get this position right for decades. An early first for McNown. Didn’t work. So…a mid-first for Rex. Didn’t work. So…multiple firsts for Jay. Didn’t work. So…trading up one spot in the early first for Mitch. Didn’t work. So…we’re here. They have committed resource after resource after resource in an effort to avoid being what they remain: one of many teams trying to escape mediocrity without the help of a star quarterback.

And that’s what the team is doing now. Still trying to pursue Wilson. Still calling about Watson. Still packaging what they can to move up in the draft. Ryan Pace is doing EVERYTHING he can to solve this organization’s biggest problem. Whether he can do enough is something we won’t know for a while.

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If They Make 2021 About Andy Dalton, the Chicago Bears – Collectively – Have Lost Their Minds

| April 1st, 2021


Andy Dalton is a middle of the road quarterback.

Ryan Pace knows Dalton is a middle of the road quarterback.

Matt Nagy knows Dalton is a middle of the road quarterback.

George McCaskey and Ted Phillips know Dalton is a middle of the road quarterback.

And that is why none of these men can possibly believe Dalton is a pathway out of the mediocrity of the last two seasons. None of these men can possibly think Dalton – even replacing the ineptitude of “the former guy” – is the missing piece in a Super Bowl puzzle. And in the cases of Pace, Nagy and perhaps even Phillips, they can’t possibly imagine Dalton is worth risking their tenures within the organization.

To believe any of that nonsense would show that everyone in a position of authority at Halas Hall has lost their collective minds. And if that’s case, what hope do any of us have?

So we must believe Pace, Nagy, Phillips and McCaskey have not lost their minds. We must believe they understand the Bears must still solve the most important position in team sports. We must believe they know there are only two ways to inspire this fanbase for the coming season: Russell Wilson or a first-round (or very early second-round) quarterback.

Bears fans have grown impatient, and with every right. But until we know if either Wilson or a top prospect are achieved, there is no reason to be decisive about this Bears off-season. That time, however, is rapidly approaching.

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ATM: For 2021 Bears…Russ or Bust.

| March 30th, 2021

The San Francisco 49ers trading up to the third pick didn’t just hurt the Bears because it meant three quarterbacks would go in the first three picks. It also hurt because the trade illustrates what the cost will be for Chicago to get into position to select either of the other two premier quarterback prospects.

The 49ers traded three first round picks — including the 12th pick in 2021 — to move up nine spots. Even if the 49ers win the Super Bowl the next two seasons, the value of the picks they surrendered far outweighs the value of the pick they got. More likely, they’ll pick somewhere between 16th and 25th, which really blows the value charts out of the water.

What that means for the Bears is that even if two of the quarterbacks get out of the top 10 — possible, though not likely — the cost to move up to say 12 with Philadelphia is going to be astronomical. And doing so would firmly take the Bears out of the Russell Wilson sweepstakes because, even if the Bears have a quarterback the Seahawks would want, they wouldn’t have the draft capital to make the trade work.

It has to be asked, what is more likely:

(1) That the Bears trade three first round picks and solve their decades-long quarterback crisis with Mac Jones, Trey Lance or Justin Fields.

Or

(2) That they use those picks to trade for Russell Wilson, who then solves the quarterback crisis himself.

The answer is pretty clear.

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Torn: How to Handle QB Position Between Now and September

| March 18th, 2021


This is one of the more bizarre off-seasons in Bears history.

It began with a year-end presser that sent Chicago sports radio into a tizzy and made the word “collaboration” a punchline. (The reaction to this presser was quintessential Chicago media. I’ve never heard so much unwarranted weeping into handkerchiefs.)

It then became about two star quarterbacks on the market: Deshaun Watson and Russell Willson. The excitement around the former has been muted by his evil organization’s reluctance to answer their landlines and the lawsuits now developing around the quarterback. (If you don’t think Watson’s legal troubles originate inside the Texans, you’re not paying attention. These are bad people.)

The excitement around the latter came to a crashing halt on Tuesday, with the Seahawks balking at a deal that had been negotiated for weeks and Andy Dalton signing in Chicago.

But is the Wilson deal dead? Adam Schefter sure doesn’t think so and any conversation about how the Bears need to approach quarterback between now and opening day starts with that question.



Until the Seahawks and Wilson make a public commitment to each other and the 2021 season, such a commitment does not exist. What we know:

  • Russell Wilson doesn’t want to be on the Seahawks any longer.
  • GM John Schneider was willing to let the quarterback leave.
  • Head coach Pete Carroll was not.

The Bears should keep calling, and keep increasing their offer, until that commitment is made or until the weekend of the draft.  At the same time, the team should not lose sight of Watson.

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ATM: There Is No Mystery QB

| March 4th, 2021

Our ears perked up and our minds began to wonder: Who is the quarterback the Chicago Bears are trying to get that we don’t know about?

The secret: The player doesn’t exist.

Both Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace made obvious reference to there possibly being something in the works that has not been reported in the media. The fan base and media reacted exactly as the Bears intended. The hope is that other teams – namely Seattle – would too.

The popular name circulated has been Matt Ryan, but Atlanta would have to eat $44 million in dead cap if they traded Ryan and the return certainly wouldn’t be significant enough to justify that. Once they put themselves in position to pull off that trade, the price would likely be comparable to what the Eagles got for Carson Wentz; maybe less considering Ryan’s age. They’re in an obvious position to try and win now, while building for the future. They have pieces to make Arthur Smith’s first season a success and then focus on the future. Trading Ryan for not much while eating a ton of cap space doesn’t make sense.

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Roster, Cap, Future: An All-Encompassing Primer for the 2021 Off-Season

| January 14th, 2021

The 2020 season is behind us, and now it’s time to start thinking about what changes are coming in the offseason to prepare for next year. We will focus on the roster, examining the salary cap situation, looking at who’s still under contract vs. a free agent, and exploring potential options for freeing up money.


Salary Cap Situation

The 2021 salary cap is currently projected to be somewhere between $175 and $195 million. I’ll use $185 million, right in the middle of that, as our estimate for now. As you can see in the table below, the Bears are fairly tight up against the cap right now (bottom row). All numbers come from Over the Cap.

The Bears have very little cap room, and it’s worth noting this is with only 45 players under contract. The Bears will have to fill to 53 for a full roster, and the NFL minimum salary is $660k. Even if they fill out with minimum-salary players, that adds another $5.3 million, which puts them over the salary cap (or very close to it, depending on where exactly it ends up). That’s not to mention their draft picks, which will add a few million to that; the Bears pick 20th in round 1, and last years’ 20th overall pick had a $2.4M cap hit.

I’ll note these numbers are current as of about 10 PM Chicago time on Wednesday, January 13. They might have changed if the Bears sign more practice squad players to futures contracts (which basically adds in guys at that minimum $660k level).


Depth Chart

So the Bears are currently a little over the salary cap, though there are always options to free up more money (more on that later). Who do they have under contract making all that money? The table below shows the current depth chart for all 45 players currently signed for 2021 (again, might be a little out of date as the Bears sign their practice squad players in the upcoming days).

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Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy Will Return in 2021.

| January 13th, 2021


Both men will meet the media at 10:00 AM CT Wednesday (my birthday). Stay tuned to this space for a response to that press conference.

A few notes:

  • George McCaskey made clear what many of us have known: this ownership group loves Ryan Pace and trusts him to right the ship. (Do they love Nagy? I’m not sure but they trust Ryan on him.)
  • No contract extensions for either doesn’t automatically mean next season is “win or gone” but it will increase the pressure.
  • George: “We need better production from the quarterback position to be successful.” Bingo.
  • George suggested he’s more confident in Pace selecting the next franchise QB because Nagy will be involved in that process. It is very obvious ownership wants this group to succeed and is going to give them every chance to do that.
  • Weird moment when Ted wouldn’t answer how long the Nagy/Pace contracts are. Not sure I get why that would be privileged information but it does suggest these guys might not be expiring after 2021.
  • Pace made it very clear that this entire offseason is about the quarterback position.
  • Prodded about the 2017 draft by Dan Wiederer, Pace would not take the bait and kill Trubisky. Nagy was pressed as well, and passed. There’s no reason to do it.

One thing is very clear from today: Mitch Trubisky will not be on the Chicago Bears next season.

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