This exchange between former Bears receiver/current ESPN 1000 radio host Tom Waddle and David Kaplan really got the wheels in motion for me:
That was not a well orchestrated press conference. I think we all wanted honesty and we didn't get it. That's on Ryan. But as my favorite 85' Bear tells me…. I don't care what they say. Just win football games.
— David Kaplan (@thekapman) January 2, 2018
On a day that was supposed to be about addressing John Fox’s dismissal and moving on to his replacement, talk revolved around the presence of President Ted Phillips and Chairman George McCaskey. Even with the announcement of a two-year contract extension for GM Ryan Pace that should have settled the Bears’ hierarchy, the message was garbled.
And yet, there was an odd sense of clarity. Pace reports to Phillips. Phillips reports to McCaskey. Pace will make the final decision on the coaching hire and the 53-man roster. Phillips and McCaskey will serve as a sound board and provide the monetary assets to make the Bears into a contender again.
There was probably a better way to go about doing it, but as long as they do it, that’s all that matters. Here’s some more highlights from Pace’s presser (which you can watch, in full, right here):
- Pace’s adventures into free agency have unearthed more misses than hits in his first three seasons. The most notable whiff was the signing of quarterback Mike Glennon to a three-year deal that included more than $18 million in guaranteed money. HOWEVER, Pace has no regrets about his pursuit and signing of Glennon. “With the quarterback position, I have no regrets in us being aggressive in attacking that position; it’s that important,” Pace said, via ESPN Chicago’s Jeff Dickerson. “We all felt confident in Mike, and sometimes in our business things don’t work out.”
- To be fair, the process Pace followed in addressing the quarterback position last offseason was sound. The Bears took two by signing Glennon as a free agent and drafting Mitch Trubisky. One had short-term implications, the other with an eye on the future. If Trubisky ultimately lives up to his top-of-the-first-round status, the Glennon signing will be nothing more than a footnote in Bears history.
- For what it’s worth, Pace seems to have a feel for the high-risk nature of free agency. It’s worth noting that while the free agent misses have come on some higher profile players, the mistakes haven’t hurt the Bears’ salary cap situation. These short-term deals have left the team with a ton of wiggle room to make better, high-cost decisions in free agency starting as early as this year. To that end, Pace vows to get better in this particular area.
- But before we jump into free agency, Pace will have to find his head coach. Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes that McCaskey and Phillips will accompany Pace on coaching interviews, which whatever. The optics of McCaskey and Phillips joining Pace doesn’t necessarily sit well, but it’s not like those two high-ranking officials don’t have an important place in the process. In fact, I’m willing to bet that most candidates will probably have some questions of their for each of the three highest-ranking officials (money, the future, the decisions, certainty, etc.). So in that sense, McCaskey and Phillips’ presence might be warranted.
- On the surface, I can understand why some might also view Pace’s extension as bad optics – he receives two additional years of job security on the same day the head coach is fired after the two worked together to put up a 14-34 record. But Pace points the finger at himself for the team’s many shortcomings over the last three years. And, as we know, the Bears were still rebuilding this past season. Soon enough, though (perhaps even as soon as next season) that legit explanation will look a lot more like an excuse.
- In any case, despite another double-digit loss season, Pace feels better about the team now than he did last season, and that’s primarily because of Trubisky. And given the importance of the position/player, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that Trubisky might be involved with the head coach search:
Pace on whether Mitch Trubisky will be involved in the HC interview process: "That's definitely something we're going to look into."
— Rich Campbell (@Rich_Campbell) January 1, 2018
- It’s not as if the 40-year-old GM is going to turn to the 23-year-old QB to have him call the shots. But it’s reasonable that the most important player on the team has some semblance of say in this decision. After all, each coaching candidate is probably going to want to hear from Trubisky and what his vision looks like moving forward. For what it’s worth, this isn’t too uncommon (the Rams had Jared Goff in on conversations when the team interviewed Sean McVay).
- Pace said he and the team are ready and willing to move quickly in a crowded field of teams in search of a new head coach. Even though Pace said the team hadn’t made inquiries or interview requests at the time of the press conference, that changed quickly with a report of requests to interview Josh McDaniels and Pat Shurmur. Even then, by the time the Bears started their 4 p.m. press conference, the team was already putting out feelers for Steve Wilks and John DeFilippo.
- Pace seems open to a number of head coaching possibilities, including college coaches. He added that prior head coaching experience isn’t necessarily a deciding factor and that the team didn’t want to back itself into a corner by narrowing its search to one side of the ball.
- There wasn’t much offered up as far as player personnel decisions from Pace. He did say he met with free-agent-to-be Kyle Fuller. The Bears’ highest-graded cornerback at Pro Football Focus was lauded for his performance and his preparation skills in his contract year. Prior to Sunday’s season finale, Fuller seemed open to returning to the Bears.