There have been some considerable changes to the Chicago Bears since the last time general manager Ryan Pace last spoke to the media.
Hub Arkush of Pro Football Weekly, Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune, and Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times were among the assembled media who were able to catch up with pace, who spoke at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix on Tuesday. There was a lot of ground covered in Campbell’s piece at the Tribune, Finley’s at the Sun-Times, and Arkush’s at PFW – all of which you should read at your own leisure for a full scope of what Pace said about his team’s quarterback situation.
Let’s tackle some highlights …
- The much-balleyhooed Mark Sanchez signing seems pretty straightforward from Pace’s perspective. In Sanchez, Pace sees a No. 2 quarterback who has gone through the NFL experience through its entirety. Sanchez has been a highly touted draft pick who played on one of college football’s biggest stages (USC) in a major media market (Los Angeles), a postseason success story in New York, a flop in Philadelphia, and ultimately out of the headlines in Dallas. All things considered, he has the traits (or at minimum, the typical career arc) of the classic backup quarterback. Whether or not he has the necessary skills remains to be seen.
- In the locker room, Sanchez seems to be a fit, as Pace notes that he and fellow quarterback Mike Glennon have “already kind of clicked,” and have taken it upon themselves to organize workouts. This is a positive sign, especially for a quarterback room that will be getting to know a new set of pass catchers. Think of it this way, there will be three quarterbacks (Glennon, Sanchez, Connor Shaw) throwing to three pass catchers (receivers Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright, tight end Dion Sims) – none of whom played a regular season snap for the Bears in 2016 – when camp rolls around this summer. A lot has to happen between now and Week 1 to get all these fresh faces on the same page.
- Putting together a good quarterback room is something Pace continues to repeat as a priority, as he tries to balance a player’s talent, floor, upside and personality at the most important position. Pace believes there is no more important room than the quarterback room, saying: “… [W]e put a lot of thought as to how that room blends together, especially with the number two position. I think we’ve created an environment not only with him but also with Connor Shaw where it’s a room that can really click together and make each other better.”
- Pace also addresses with Campbell why the Bears insisted on going after Sanchez before the draft. It’s worth asking, because the team waited until after the draft to sign Brian Hoyer last time around. Pace believes that if the Bears had waited any longer, Sanchez would have signed elsewhere. The rush to acquire a backup quarterback seems odd, considering their relative value to a team coming off a 3-13 season.
- The Bears still see Glennon, who will play in his age 28 season in 2017, as a young player. Further, Pace sees Glennon as someone who can learn from Sanchez, whom we’ve mentioned as a player who has handled various situations as a starting quarterback on a big stage. “Where (Sanchez’s) at at this point in his career and his maturity level and some of the knowledge that he has that he can pull from the past to help Mike,” Pace said. “You think about Mike, he’s still a young player. Mike’s a young player coming into a starting role in a big market. And Sanchez has done that. So I think having some of those experiences is going to help behind the scenes.”
- It’s worth noting that Sanchez is only three years older than Glennon.
- Pace tells Finley the Bears examined all of the available backup quarterbacks, including Colin Kaepernick – who remains unsigned. Ultimately, the Bears decided not to pursue Kaepernick because, “To us, it just came down to the skill sets we value,” Pace said. Kaepernick’s teams are 11-24 in his starts since 2014, but he sports an 85.9 quarterback rating, 41 touchdown passes, and has been picked off at a minuscule 1.8 percent. He has played in two NFC title games and a Super Bowl. Kaepernick still has some flaws under center, but he has proven to be exceptional when given playing time and talent around him. I’d be curious to know what Pace and other talent evaluators see in Kaepernick that deters teams from signing him.
- And in the end, the Bears still could draft a quarterback. And while it may seem gratuitous to draft one in the first round and further crowd the quarterback room, Pace is playing coy. “We talk about it a lot. We’re going to draft the best players available, wherever that may be. And if it’s a quarterback, it’s a quarterback,” Pace said. “But we’re going to take the best players available. … But right now I like the way Sanchez blends with Glennon and with Connor Shaw.”
- Here’s a notable tidbit. It appears as if Pace has had his eye on Glennon for quite a while:
#Bears GM Ryan Pace said he had informal talks to try to trade for Mike Glennon in last 2 years. Liked him since he was drafted
— Patrick Finley (@patrickfinley) March 28, 2017
- If Glennon turns out to be a diamond in the rough, Pace will be credited for a head-strong, forward thinking move to acquire a quarterback in a league full of teams hungry for production out of the position. And if Glennon doesn’t pan out, well, needless to say, the gnashing of teeth won’t look pretty.