With the final week of the season upon us, two truths are generally accepted by Bears fans about what’s about to unfold:
- Head Coach John Fox will be fired.
- General Manager Ryan Pace will not.
The reasons we believe number one to be true are many, are obvious, and do not necessitate a full rundown here, lest it look like grave-dancing.
The reasons we believe number two are a little more nuanced, but the rationale is there. For one thing, Pace has generally had the backing and support of ownership for his three-year tenure, having been brought in as the youngest GM in the league. Pace was entrusted with something of a significant overhaul of the organization, and dismissing him now – the year after, among other things, the organization has bet big on a franchise quarterback after finally parting ways with Jay Cutler – would seem very reactionary.
Lastly, although Pace has been tied to Fox from day one, it’s debatable just how much of a hand he had in bringing Fox into the fold in the first place. Recall, after parting ways with Marc Trestman and Phil Emery, ownership called upon “consultant” Ernie Accorsi to help them land their next head coach and GM. From reports at the time, it always sounded like Accorsi had a much greater say in Fox getting the head coaching job than Pace, who was hired only a week prior.
That is all offered as an important set up to a discussion at Pro Football Talk tonight, which openly wonders whether the ax will fall next week not only on Fox, but also on Pace and team president Ted Phillips, who is himself very close with the McKaskey family.
Normally, I’d just rest on everything I said above about why I’m pretty sure Pace is safe, but the PFT report drops in this interesting angle:
Here’s something that could be a clue. Most of the non-playoff teams already have commenced the process of negotiating with practice-squad players the futures contracts that can be signed after the regular season ends. As one league source explained it to PFT, the Bears haven’t.
It would certainly be a little odd, though perhaps the preoccupation with the coaching search and other roster considerations have made it an unusual final few weeks of the regular season? I can do little but spitball on that one.
So, then, I suppose this is something to keep on your radar, and you can read the PFT report for more musing. My gut says Pace will stay, and will be given the opportunity to truly choose his own head coach, one who can be brought on to steward the roster that Pace is building.
But I suppose we’ll see. As for whether Pace *should* be on the chopping block, I’m comfortable with allowing him to select his own coach at this point. Yes, he’s had some free agent whiffs (you’ll have that when you’re pushing for short-term deals without much in the way of future guaranteed money), and the drafting has not been flawless. But overall, there has been enough to buy him more time, especially with his immediate future tied to the Trubisky selection. If Pace was right about that one, and if he gets the right coach in the door to continue that progress, then he will have succeeded at his highest charge.