Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace simply doesn’t do many 1-on-1 interviews. So any time anyone can get him on the record and talking about things, it’s must-listen stuff.
To that end, Pace recently visited Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio in a recent podcast. You can check the interview in its entirety here. In addition to opening a window to share the current state of the team after last season amid COVID-19 (as you might guess, they’re “pissed off”), Pace weighed in on a number of other topics such as the quarterback competition, having a certain level of excitement heading into the year, the value I’m having a star-studded guest speaker list, and more.
Here are some of the highlights, along with some additional commentary. Enjoy!
2020 Vision is One of Excitement
Think back to the buzz that accompanied the 2018 season. Long before Khalil Mack coming to the Bears was a twinkle in our eyes, there were positive vibes surrounding this team. There was an energy that came with a new head coach, a clean slate, and a new direction. Some of that buzz has been softened after the 2019 season, but enough of the core pieces from the 2018 squad are still in prime and in place to make an impact. And as far as Pace is concerned, it’s enough to keep that buzz going strong.
“If you bring in the right people, things can change quickly in our league. We saw it in Coach Nagy’s first year in 2018 in Chicago how quick that shifted. The momentum we carried, the confidence and swag the team played with, we’ve got to regain that. It’s still there. We still have the same core pieces. Some tweaks here and there. Some tweaks to the coaching staff. But that’s why I say I like where our team is right now, where the mindset of our team is right now. I’m excited once we start camp because I can feel that momentum.”
Pace’s optimism is certainly appreciated.
And let’s remember there were good feelings entering the 2019 season, too.
“Going into the ’19 season, the excitement was off the charts because of what we did the previous year — 12-4, winning the division. So you go through last year and it just eats at you, and we all have a bad taste in our mouth. 8-8 definitely isn’t good enough. We didn’t fulfill our expectations.”
“Now it’s been about everybody don’t be defensive, everybody drop their egos. We’re all humbled. What can we do better to get this thing back on the track that it was on in ’18? And I think we’ve done a lot of things this offseason to get that going because last year was unacceptable.”
It’s good that Pace is opening up and admitting last year’s efforts were unacceptable. Coming clean is always the first step toward a better future.
The Other Competitions
Why, yes, Pace acknowledged there are other positions up for grab beyond quarterback.
“There are probably about four different position battles I can think of throughout our roster. I know quarterback is the focus, but there’s a couple of important ones as well. … I think we’ve got some on the offensive line. … Right guard, safety, cornerback, quarterback as definite competitions.”
In addition to the quarterback competition we’re going to obsess over this summer, the Bears have starting spots at right guard, safety, and cornerback. Let’s discuss them in brief.
Right guard: Offensive line buffs are going to dig into Germain Ifedi vs. Rashaad Coward. Although, that battle could be pushed to the side if the team decides it wants to re-visit its interest in free agent Larry Warford.
That Pace mentioned that there are battles to be won along the offensive line as a whole suggests that there could be more than just a spot at right guard that is up for grabs. It’s something I’d like to dive into later. But for now, I wanted to underline that while it was front and center.
Safety: Tashaun Gipson Sr. vs. Deon Bush seems like a battle tilted in Gipson’s favor, as he is the more accomplished player. Bush is an incumbent returning for his second year in Chuck Pagano’s defense, but Gipson is a far more accomplished player. It would take a mighty performance from Bush to unseat Gipson.
Cornerback: is the most intriguing of the non-QB battles. Pace name-dropped Kevin Toliver II as someone who could start there in Week 1. And since he has minimal starting experience, it’s not out of pocket to think he could be there when the season kicks off. But rookie Jaylon Johnson has so much upside and potential, in addition to having a high floor, so he shouldn’t be counted out.
Guest Speakers Have Hit Close to Home
Without naming names, Pace discussed how impactful bringing in special guests from different walks of the sporting realm has been valuable for all parties.
“You’re talking about Hall of Famers from all different sports, and it usually comes down to their passion and love for the game. There’s a borderline obsession, almost a maniacal approach to how obsessed they all were with being great. The pass for the game, their football IQ on all these guys has been off the chart. It’s just so good for our young guys and veterans to hear that from all these guys. Guys that have been in their shoes and what they did to become great players and sacrifices they made. It’s good for all of us to hear. It’s been inspiring along the way.”
Since recording the podcast, it has been learned that Peyton Manning and Doc Rivers were brought in as guest speakers. And while both have spoken with other teams, it’s still impressive that the Bears came away with two pretty strong pulls.