Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace doesn’t speak on the record much. So when he does, it’s worth a listen.
In his annual sit-down interview with Adam Hoge and Adam Jahns, Pace opened up on a variety of topics. Many of which are at top of mind for Bears fans. But for this particular post, I want to focus on the quarterback discussion.
I’ve pulled some highlights and added my own commentary regarding Pace’s comments. There’s much to dive into here, so let’s get into it.
MITCH LOOKS GOOD … BUT DOES THAT MATTER?
In early January, Pace and Head Coach Matt Nagy put in place a plan of attack for quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. The idea was to get the 2018 Pro Bowl alternate back on a path of success. Of course, the pandemic threw things for a loop. And yet, here we are at the cusp of training camp. So how does Trubisky look?
“When he walked in the building and had a couple of seasons with our strength coaches already, they approached Matt and I talking about just physically how good he looks. You can see it. His build right now. His physique right now. I think they were really encouraged, the strength coaches were just in the conditioning sessions and weightlifting sessions just where he’s at physically. It was very obvious that he’s been training very hard this summer.”
In general, it’s encouraging that Trubisky looks the part. But what sticks with me here is that at no point does Pace address where Trubisky is from a mental aspect of the game. Remember when Nagy said he wanted Trubisky to “obsess” over film watching? Or that he wanted Trubisky to become a master in reading coverages and defenses thrown his way? As of now, we don’t have an answer if Trubisky has improved that yet. I don’t imagine we’ll get one until games are played. But still … it’s not as if the physical attributes have ever been in doubt. It’s the processing aspect of the game where Trubisky needs work. And that Pace didn’t touch upon that at all with Trubisky, when he spent time elsewhere talking about the football IQ of his team’s rookies and the importance of learning the system doesn’t sit right with me.
WHAT HAPPENED WITH CAM? OTHERS?
Although there were a number of quarterback options worth exploring this offseason, Chicago ultimately went in the direction of trading for Nick Foles … but not before testing the waters elsewhere. When asked specifically if the team pursued free agent Cam Newton as part of the process, Pace’s answer is telling.
“With him on another team right now, I don’t want to get too much into that. But you guys know this past free agency, this past offseason, there were a lot of different options at quarterback. And we explored all of those. Of course we evaluated all of those …. I feel like we were really thorough with the process and we went through all of them.”
So, in a way, Pace confirmed the Bears kicked the tires on various quarterback options during the free agency period. If you’ll recall, Chicago was connected to Teddy Bridgewater, Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, among others. In the end, they landed on Foles. And as expected, Pace’s explanation virtually confirms what many have previously speculated.
“I can just speak to Nick Foles. Obviously, there is a reason why we went after him. There is a reason why we made that trade. There is a lot of background with him. His experience. The successes he’s had. His fit for our team and our offense. And we’re excited about that addition and we’re excited about this competition.”
Even when given options, Pace and the Bears still chose Foles. In one way, it’s exasperating. Because, yes, I understand the value of knowing the system and having familiarity with coaches. But once again, this feels as if Pace fell into the trap of falling in football love and doing whatever is necessary to land them. And while I appreciate a GM who acts with conviction, I do not like that there is an obvious pattern of a front office getting tunnel vision when it comes to particular players.
DEFINING THE “COLLABORATIVE” PROCESS
Eyebrows were raised when beat reporters tweeted Pace would have some say in who starts at QB in Week 1. Pace didn’t get a chance to elaborate on what was described as a “collaborative decision” on Wednesday. Thankfully, he was able to clear the air on Thursday’s podcast appearance.
“Matt and I, we’re together all the time. We’re talking all the time, so there’s not these big meetings that happen once a week. We’re talking constantly, so the dialogue is always going on. Wether it’s at practice, or in my office, or in his office, it’s coming across as very natural and there is no surprises. It’s happening as we go through the process.”
I suppose it’s reassuring that Pace made it clear he isn’t the one making the call. It’s also encouraging that Pace and his coach are working through this together. Granted, he talked about working with John Fox prior to the 2017 season, so perhaps we would be wise to take this with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, at least this collaborative process involves four well-versed quarterback aficionados.
Again, you’ll want to give it a full listen when you get the time.
📸Erin Hooley pic.twitter.com/5LIlCuAxuR
— The Athletic Chicago (@TheAthleticCHI) July 31, 2020