In recent weeks, rumors have hinted that change could be on the horizon for the Chicago Bears from the coaching staff to the front office. But the latest trail of breadcrumbs might not lead you exactly where you though — at least, with respect to Ryan Pace.
Take Hub Arkush’s recent visit to the Matt Spiegel and Danny Parkins Show on 670 The Score, “Pace isn’t in as much trouble as people want to think he is. But that there is consideration whether they do need to reorganize the front office. And so my focus is more on a top football guy.”
Hearing that Pace “isn’t in as much trouble” as you might otherwise expect was off-putting, until you read the rest of the comment. Arkush suggests that the franchise is/could be considering a front office reorganization that could accomplish nearly everything we’d actually want to see (taking the final say out of the hands of Ryan Pace). Whether he stays in the organization in some sort of John Paxson-style advisory role (or his current role!) is less important, if there’s a new voice on top of his.
And, hey, Arkush even goes on to offer a “perfect” fit for the role of “top football guy.”
“I’ve said this before, and I don’t want to get hung up on one guy, but he’s such a perfect example. If they were to bring Rick Smith in, as either the President of Football Operations or the General Manager, and then give him the option of keeping Ryan Pace as his personnel director or replacing him, and then have that duo lead a head coach search with two football people doing it, I’d be pretty comfortable with whatever candidates they come up with.”
But Arkush didn’t stop there, as he said he wasn’t focusing in on head coach candidate right now as much as he was trying to zero in on “a possible football czar” for the franchise. Arkush makes it clear that the time has come to re-shape the front office in a way that makes a clear delineation between “football people” and the George McCaskey/Ted Phillips power structure that has been falling short of expectations going on decades (plural).
Where it gets even more interesting is that Arkush isn’t even the only long-time Chicago-based reporter offering up this concept.
Dan Pompei’s Pitch
On Thanksgiving, Dan Pompei (The Athletic) made the following declaration: “What the Bears need is a president of football operations in charge of hiring, firing and supervising the general manager and the head coach. The roles of the general manager and the coach don’t have to change much — only the person they report to.”
The entire post is worth reading, as it gives an idea of what the job should be, previous examples of it working with the Bears. So take some time with it when you get a chance.
Like Arkush, Pompei is a senior member of the Bears media landscape. So, when he offers up ideas like this, I tend to listen because Pompei isn’t pulling this stuff out of thin air. And seeing that one of his long-time media colleagues drops off a similar sentiment a few weeks later sets off alarms in my head. Not to say that this is happening. But instead, to note that this isn’t some pie-in-the-sky idea. This is in the realm of reality that something like this could be in the works.
Pompei offers up some names who could be fits for such a role. Among them — Rick Smith.
Who is Rick Smith?
Now, I’m sitting here wondering if this is a coincidence or if someone is doing some signaling. In either case, we can’t not talk about Rick Smith. Because any team seeking change in its front office should have Smith at the top of its list.
Smith ran was Houston’s Executive Vice President of Football Operations from 2006-17. His best draft picks included Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, and J.J. Watt. Those are stars who were building blocks for a successful franchise. In Smith’s 12 years at the top of the decision-making chart, the Texans went 92-100. But his organizational rebuild was masterful. The Texans were .500 or better in nine of Smith’s 12 seasons. They had two 10+ win seasons and made the playoffs in four of the last seven years of his regime. But a power struggle went down while Smith took a leave of absence to be with his wife while she fought breast cancer. And with it, Smith was ultimately let go from his role. Wouldn’t a wonderful NFL comeback story include a next step of running an NFL charter franchise? Just saying.
Obviously, this all hinges on the Bears going through with making the necessary obvious changes. But there seems to be a growing sense that the winds of change are picking up. Perhaps an unfavorable result in Sunday night’s game against the Packers will accelerate things. Stay tuned.
*Arkush is the Executive Editor of Pro Football Weekly, a long-time sideline reporter for Westwood One, and has a long-standing history covering the Bears. So, when he speaks on things possibly happening on the upper-management side, we’re keenly listening.