Three years into his tenure with the Chicago Bears, GM Ryan Pace found his team in the same place it started when he inherited a roster on the decline – staring up at the rest of the NFC North from the bottom of the pile.
The Bears needed a change of direction this offseason, and Pace was at the forefront of what has been a sweeping overhaul. Changes at head coach (hello, Matt Nagy!) and throughout the offensive coaching staff (tons of new faces!) and a handful of new starters on the offensive side of the ball were all made with one thing in mind – building to help Mitch Trubisky realize his potential as Chicago’s franchise quarterback.
Dan Pompei of The Athletic held court with Pace, who provided detailed perspective in what went into the reconstruction of his team’s roster:
Now that most of the heavy lifting of the offseason is over, I sat down with Ryan Pace to discuss his overhaul. https://t.co/oj7nU6s6I8
— Dan Pompei (@danpompei) May 20, 2018
It’s not like the Bears were a new head coach away from being competitive, so Pace embarked on a journey that did everything in order to create a re-imagined offense for his quarterback.
The new-look Bears offense needed a modernized version of the tight end. The “U” tight end is a big-bodied pass-catcher who might as well be an oversized wide receiver. Enter Trey Burton, the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl standout who had a familiarity with Nagy’s offense because he worked in a similar scheme under Doug Pederson. Like Nagy, Pederson is also an Andy Reid disciple.
Every offense could use a big-play wideout on the outside, and either Allen Robinson or Sammy Watkins was going to be that guy. Ultimately, Robinson was given the big payday and the responsibility of making life easier for Trubisky by making plays down the field. Even though Robinson is coming off an ACL tear that cost him all but a handful of snaps in the 2017 season, Pace is “comfortable” in the team’s new lead receiver and cites his “unbelievable work ethic and professionalism” as well as his size and skills.
Even the addition of a kicker was made with the idea of getting the most out of Trubisky. After all, what’s the point of utilizing playmakers like Robinson and Burton if the end result is a kick that gets shanked wide right or pulled wide left? Cody Parkey became the game’s eighth-highest-paid kicker after signing as a free agent in March and should inspire confidence at the end of drives that end in enemy territory, but without a touchdown.
So far, the moves have led to some early positive returns for Trubisky to build on as the offseason training program progresses.
“You can see him taking more of an authoritative approach,” Pace told Pompei. “The way he commands the huddle, the way he talks to teammates, you can see him taking ownership. And it seems very comfortable and natural. His skill set fits this offsense-his athleticism, his quick release. So we’re really excited. He and the head coach are extremely passionate. That’s a great feeling when you pull out of the hours late at night and they are still there. Mitch is always at the facility, off days, always.”
Pace had some tough decisions to make, some of which were unpopular. But it turns out the Bears’ general manager had his reasons for every move. For an extended look, you’ll want to give this a read.