Brett and I got our kicks texting back-and-forth about cleaning house at Halas Hall on Sunday.
I even went as far to jokingly drop this tweet:
— Hall of Famer Baseball Person™️ Luis (@lcm1986) November 8, 2020
And then I stopped and realized that there will be a point we need to have this discussion.
RYAN PACE, GENERAL MANAGER
Hours after firing Head Coach John Fox on January 1, 2018, Bears President Ted Phillips announced an extension for Pace. Awkward timing, I’ll admit. But it was necessary to present some stability at the top. Moving to a third GM in five years wouldn’t have been a good look.
Pace’s extension tied him to the franchise through the 2021 season. At the time, Phillips said Pace: “earned the opportunity to see his plan through fruition.” Since then, Pace has hired his second head coach, acquired his third quarterback, and has made just one playoff appearance. And while Pace pushed for and oversaw the completion of a refurbished Halas Hall, I keep circling back to Phillips’ mention of the opportunity to see things through. After all, not too many GMs get a chance to hire a third head coach and bring in a fourth quarterback.
The Bears’ organization isn’t known for cutting ties with its high-ranking front office types before the end of their respective contracts. However, should the powers that be make the call on Pace, it’s worth noting that they’ll be on the hook for just one year of Pace’s deal.
MATT NAGY, HEAD COACH
We had some high hopes for Nagy when he was hired, and we were hardly alone. And yet, here we are exploring the possibility that the Bears could (or maybe should) move on from him after this season. But unlike Pace, who has one year remaining on his deal, Nagy’s contract with Chicago was for five years. That’s essentially the standard now, but teams don’t often part ways with a coach two years before their contract expires. One year? Sure, that’s easy to swallow. Two? Not as much.
Then again, both Pace and Nagy could be gone. But who would make that call? Well, I’m glad you asked…
Who’s Involved With the Process?
Nothing has changed in the Bears power structure since the last time they sought out a new head coach, general manager — or in the case of the 2015 offseason — a head coach and manager. It’s Chairman George McCaskey and President Ted Phillips at the top. The two have been together for ages and that doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon.
However, it’s worth pointing out that Phillips and McCaskey received help from retired NFL executive Ernie Accorsi after they fired GM Phil Emery and Head Coach Marc Trestman after the 2014 season. From there, Accorsi recommended Pace and guided the first-year GM in John Fox’s general direction. It’s reasonable to believe that history could repeat itself, with Phillips and McCaskey hiring a consultant to steer them in the process. Although, I can’t imagine it would be Accorsi.
Then again, Cardinals executive Michael Bidwell credited Accorsi for his assistance in helping the team hire Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury.
The Process Itself
This is where not having the coach and general manager on the same timeline is problematic. Pace could point to Nagy and suggest the coach isn’t getting the most out of the players he has drafted. But Nagy could counter that Pace hasn’t given him much to work with, specifically on the offensive side of the ball. See where a conflict could exist? So while that’s a post for another time, it’s something the higher-ups must discuss when evaluating the situation as a whole. Good luck sorting that mess.
The Bears could opt to retain Nagy, even if it is for a new GM to make a choice whether or not to keep him long term. Or they could let Nagy in on picking a front office leader, which is a new dynamic we’ve seen lately. For instance, the Bears could pave a similar path to what the Browns did in having their coach be part of the signing off process. I recognize the Browns haven’t been a model franchise for some time, but the forward-thinking analytics types dig their style. And maybe the Bears need to follow an outside-of-the-box type of thinking.
Ultimately, the Bears should want their two most important football people operating on the same timeline.
Traditionally, a regime change is something that should be done as quickly as possible. When Pace hired Nagy, it came a week after interviews started. Pace quickly ran through the gamut of candidates, which included John DeFilippo, Josh McDaniels, Pat Shurmur, George Edwards, and Vic Fangio. This doesn’t need to be an everlasting process.
And for what it’s worth, eight days passed between the dismissal of Phil Emery and Pace’s hiring in 2015. The announcement also came one day after interviewing Pace and then-Chiefs Player Personnel Director Chris Ballard. Eight days after that, Pace hired John Fox. So, in the end, we’re looking at a two week(ish) window where things need to be tidied up. And here’s why that matters, should it come down to it.
If the Bears make a move, the head coach and GM need to be working together to come up with a plan for 2021 and beyond. Coaching staffs and scouting departments need to be built out. Once that is settled, Chicago has important decisions to make regarding how to rebuild a broken offense, all while maintaining defensive excellence and continuity. We haven’t gotten all that deep, and already we’re faced with a mountain to climb.
In The End
The final seven games of the regular season will determine the fate of this front office. A win-now roster was built while sacrificing long-term cap health and draft pick assets. If this group misses the playoffs for a second consecutive season, then it will be evident that small moves to gain minimal cap flexibility to tinker here and there aren’t solutions. And if that’s the conclusion, then significant changes should be on the horizon.