Ryan Pace Speaks: Rising Expectations, Parkey Talk, Desired RB Traits, More

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Ryan Pace Speaks: Rising Expectations, Parkey Talk, Desired RB Traits, More

Chicago Bears

As we move toward the 2019 league year, GM Ryan Pace is positioning pieces on a 12-win team that just won the NFC North and was painfully close to making a trip to the divisional round of the postseason. But there’s still work to be done.

While meeting the media in Indianapolis, Pace addressed a variety of topics, most of which I’ve highlighted below next to some of my own additional commentary below. Enjoy!

A Team On The Rise

It’s not that the Bears haven’t been trying to make splashes in free agency, but signing a high-profile talent is a two-way street. A team can offer a boatload of funds, but it takes someone on the other end of the negotiating table to accept it. Remember when A.J. Bouye turned down more money from the Bears to sign with the Jaguars? Fun times.

The Bears don’t have those types of funds available right now due to salary cap constraints, but that’s not taking the shine off this apple: “I feel like we are an attractive destination for a variety of reasons.  It’s the coaching staff, it’s the youth of our roster, it’s the city of Chicago, it’s a brand new facility. We’re definitely a team on the rise and I think a lot of players want to be a part of that.”

What a difference a year makes!

It wasn’t all that long ago when the Bears weren’t viewed as a destination for high-profile NFL free agents. In fact, there was a moment in February 2017, when the NFLPA’s leader suggested he’d tell free agents not to sign with the Bears if Illinois passed a proposed bill aimed at reducing workers’ compensation benefits for professional athletes. It wasn’t pretty, y’all. But fast forward two years and the Bears’ winning ways have made Chicago a place people want to be.

Expectations Are High

A low bar was set for the Bears before last season. But as is often the case, internal pressure and motivation from within sparked a competitive run. But just because the Bears emerged from a dark place doesn’t mean it’s time to rest on their laurels. In fact, Pace says he feels more pressure coming off a 12-4 season than he did at this time last year.

“I feel like, ‘Hey, you never want to revert, right?’ The expectations are high, and we want that. They should be high. I think we know with the amount of draft picks we have and the cap space, this is where we make our hay as scouts and evaluators. We’re up for the challenge.”

Pace’s words had me thinking back to what Cubs Manager Joe Maddon said when he was hired back in the fall of 2014. Maddon set a high bar for the team long before it signed ace Jon Lester, traded for lead-off man Dexter Fowler, or even knew what Kris Bryant could do at the major-league level. The whole idea was to set a high bar, embrace the challenges ahead, and to not run away from big moments. High-pressure situations should be embraced because it means good things are expected. The standard has been taken to another level at Halas Hall, that is for certain.

Scout Speak

I got a kick out of Pace talking about how he views the running back position.

“Running back is such an instinctive position. As scouts, sometimes we can get enamored with height, weight, speed. But really that position really starts with instincts and vision, and I think we always have to be mindful of that and not overlooking that. I think sometimes scouts can trip themselves up when you get focused too much on the physical measurables and not the instincts and vision that come with that position.”

You can really feel Pace dig deep into his scouting roots when discussing running backs. And you can also see why his front office has been successful drafting them since arriving in Chicago. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen weren’t perfect running back prospects by any stretch of the imagination. If they were, they would have been drafted long before the Bears would have had a chance to pluck them in the late round of their respective drafts.

With that said, Howard has one more year left on his contract and Cohen has two. The Bears will need to be mindful of what works in the running backs room because they’ll need to draft another good one soon if they want to keep these good times rolling. And they’re definitely not wasting any time in that regard.

Putting A Bow On The Cody Parkey Era

One factor was taken into consideration when it came time to make a decision regarding Cody Parkey’s future in Chicago.

“It’s really performance-based at the end of the day. Matt and I wanted to call him before the Combine and be honest with him. So we had a good conversation with him, and an honest conversation him. But at the end of the day, it’s performance-based.”

And with that, Parkey is a goner. It wasn’t an appearance on a television show or any of the nonsensical things that might have been discussed. Parkey missing 10 kicks in the regular season and the most crucial kick in the team’s playoff loss that ended his time with the Bears. If you combined Parkey’s regular season and playoff numbers, he went 26-for-34 on field goals. That comes out to a 76.5 percent success rate, which is far too low for a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations.

Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.