When we discussed The Athletic’s recent survey of NFL agents, we highlighted (1) the candid commentary regarding the Bears’ addition of Jimmy Graham, (2) a grim description of the Packers’ offseason, and (3) some general thoughts on any number of important current events. But I set aside one anecdote from that survey to discuss in a later post. So here we are.
When asked “Who is a future GM to watch?” among those who aren’t currently the lead front office decision maker in their organization, Bears Assistant Director of Player Personnel Champ Kelly was among those mentioned. And that’s notable, so let’s discuss.
During the 2019 offseason, Kelly was viewed as someone to “keep an eye on” when the Jets GM gig opened and interviewed for the position. But even though he didn’t get the job (it went to his former Bears co-worker, Joe Douglas) and the Bears slipped to 8-8 in 2019, Kelly still finds himself in good standing in at least one professional’s eyes. It’s also worth noting that Kelly picked up an invite to participate in the (virtual) Quarterback Coaching Summit – which aims to create a path for minority coaching and player development candidates to develop and advance professionally – which should be taken as a sign that Chicago’s front office is still in good hands.
With all of that said, I want to be clear that I’m not ready to push current Bears GM Ryan Pace out the door right now, if you’re brain even went there. After all, he is under contract through the 2021 season after signing an extension in January 2018. But I wonder if Chicago’s upper management will get to a point where it has to make a decision between retaining the general manager who built the team as constructed or keeping someone viewed by outsiders as a future front office leader with the trajectory trending in a positive direction.
For what it’s worth, it isn’t unheard of for NFL teams to move on from front office leaders who take a franchise from Point A to Point B, but don’t figure to get them further. A prevalent recent example is Kansas City, which moved on from John Dorsey in order to promote Brett Veach from Co-Director of Player Personnel to GM in 2017. That decision seems to have worked out for the best. And I’m just saying that sort of path isn’t completely out of the question in Chicago.
Bringing it back to Pace, let’s remember he is just one year removed from winning the league’s Executive of the Year award as voted by his peers. And yet, it’s worth underscoring that he did not get any votes in the front office categories of The Athletic’s survey (most trustworthy, smartest, toughest negotiator, and best talent evaluator). Not one reference. No honorable mentions. No trace of the Bears GM. That’s curious – or telling – to say the least.
We’ve spent a chunk of this offseason talking about how it’s a “prove it” year for so many of the Bears players (and coaches) at Halas Hall. But perhaps we should lump Pace into the conversation, too. Especially since there seems to be a GM candidate-in-waiting already employed in the front office.