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Bears Sat Jan 10 2015

Strong Takes on New Bears GM Are Foolish Ones

Chicago BearsThe youngest general manager in football is the leading football man for the Chicago Bears. A fact like that, or anything you've read about the history of 37-year-old Ryan Pace, shouldn't invoke massive amounts of excitement or despair. The only things we truly know about him are the bullet points on his résumé.

You may be impressed by his stoic look, his deep voice, and his command of a press conference, but you shouldn't be. You don't get one of the 32 NFL GM jobs without having an interview presence. Phil Emery looked and sounded impressive his first day too -- preaching the same gospel of Bears football that everyone who sat in the chair before him did.

You may be upset that he lacks previous experience in the role he's taking over, the checkered history of decisions he's been involved in, or his youth in general, but you shouldn't be. General managers who fail in their first job rarely get a second crack at it. The best GMs in the league grow old with the team that hires them because there is no incentive to move elsewhere. And since he lacked the power of making the final call on players in New Orleans, we have no idea what decisions he agreed or disagreed with. There's no data on which to judge him.

Are you pumped about the fact he was involved in the acquisition of one of the best QBs in the NFL in Drew Brees? Calm down if your answer is yes. He made it clear that it was a group decision, and that they had a secondary plan that involved a veteran backup paired with a draft pick. He never specified what his preference was prior to Brees signing on the dotted line, and even if someone asked him specify his thoughts, it's hard to imagine he would've responded with an honest answer that wasn't colored by how Brees' presence and performance transformed the Saints franchise.

Are you fearful that a repeat of the situation he's leaving in New Orleans might happen in Chicago? Don't be. The Saints are in one of the worst financial crunches in the NFL, but Pace specifically said that he had little involvement with the salary cap in New Orleans, and would rely heavily on Bears cap guru Cliff Stein. The organization is in the steady hands of someone who's been around a long time, and is widely considered the best in the NFL at his specific job. Stein won't allow the Bears into a situation like the Saints for as long as he's employed.

What we do know about Pace is that the Saints thought enough of his work to promote him multiple times with growing responsibilities every step of the way. His focus leans more toward the pro personnel side, but he explained the system in New Orleans calls for a blend of evaluating both college and pro talent to make sure everyone knows what they should be looking for on both sides. He plans to eventually implement the same system in Chicago, but will likely have to wait until after the draft to make those maneuvers.

We know that Pace has full control over all football operations, and will report directly to Ted Phillips. That might make some people queasy because it means Phillips stays involved with football operations, but it's more for a flowchart look of the organization than a practical one. Phillips handles the money, and his connection to Pace will only come into play if things go as badly as they did with Emery and Co.

Pace stressed the importance of the relationship between the GM and head coach, saying the connection between Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton was integral in the success of the Saints organization. Since he doesn't have a head coaching hire anywhere in his past, he plans on leaning on Bears consultant Ernie Accorsi heavily during the interview process. That's definitely the right decision, but at the end of the day, Pace will be the one living through the success or failure of his decision, not Accorsi. His first decision will be the most important choice of his football life.

Pace didn't commit to a quick fix or the need for a complete breakdown and rebuild. He pointed out that the Saints went from worst to first quite quickly after Hurricane Katrina, but did stress that consistently good drafts are the key to an organizations short and long term success. Bounce-backs can occur quickly in the NFL, but they almost always coincide with an upgrade at quarterback.

Though he dodged questions directly related to his evaluation of Jay Cutler, he did say a couple of things that answered the QB situation indirectly. Pace called the relationship between the head coach and quarterback as important as the one between coach and GM, and since Cutler hasn't had a cushy relationship with anyone except maybe Mike Shanahan, it may mean that the pricey QB isn't in the future plans of the franchise.

But Pace also said he knows that guys in his job are judged by wins and losses. At the end of the day, it's the only thing that matters between a high-ranking NFL position and the street. Going away from Cutler means the Bears would have to turn the ugly looking free agent market, or to a draft class that appears to have only two starting-caliber NFL quarterbacks in Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. It seems unlikely that Mariota gets past Lovie Smith's Bucs with the number one pick, and even if Winston is available when the Bears pick at seven, his selection would be a direct contradiction to this Pace statement: "There will be a major emphasis on character, toughness, instincts, and intelligence." Winston fails in columns one and four.

The future of the Bears is in hands of a young man with no past connection to the franchise. What he knows about the Bears is the same as any football fan, and what we know about him is the basic line items on his Wikipedia page. A strong opinion on Pace one way or the other until he's made any meaningful decisions is a silly one. Judging begins the day he hires a coach, and then the three-year clock starts ticking before it's fair to evaluate his performance. Enjoy the quietness for these first few days, Mr. Pace. This fanbase can get loud and make statements with the best of them when the situation calls for it. Just ask Phil Emery.

 
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Dean / January 11, 2015 1:51 PM

We'll see how good he is in how long it takes for him to get RID of CUTLER!

A good GM will do that BEFORE getting a Coach!

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