Four days ago, NBC Sports Chicago’s Adam Hoge made “The Case for and Against Ryan Pace” and I strongly suggest checking that one out. Aside from being an excellent read, it’s the latest on a growing list of hints that change is coming to the Chicago Bears front office.
And today, just four days later, Hoge is doubling down on what he’s heard:
— The Bernstein & Rahimi Show (@BernsteinRahimi) December 20, 2021
The Bears reporter hears the team is looking at significant changes throughout the organization, beginning with the franchise doing its homework on general manager candidates. This could mean a replacement for incumbent GM Ryan Pace. But it doesn’t necessarily mean Pace won’t be back in the fold in some capacity.
It is possible the Bears could re-assign Pace elsewhere in the organization. That could look like something similar to what the Bulls did with John Paxson when they did their front office restructuring. Or it could look like what the Bears did in 1999, moving Michael McCaskey up the ladder after he fumbled the hiring of Dave McGinnis as head coach. This is the Bears we’re talking about, after all. So much could be on the table. But that Hoge maintains that changes are coming, perhaps at multiple positions, is the most important takeaway.
As for possible candidates for a role in a re-shaped Bears front office, there is one who comes to mind after reading Hoge’s report.
In Hoge’s original reporting, Hoge wrote the Bears’ homework for potential GM replacements included “gauging back-channel interest from at least one college scouting director employed by another club.”
That mention seemed oddly specific in isolation. However, it began making sense after thinking it through. But you have to follow some breadcrumbs. It began with SiriusXM’s Bill Zimmerman, who crafted a poll asking fans which potential GM candidates were most interesting. The poll came in the wake of strong hints that the Bears were looking for replacement candidates. And while Zimmerman gave some intriguing options, Jeff Hughes of Da Bears Blog — who is a long-time force in the Bears online blogging/reporting community — went off the board:
Jeff Ireland. https://t.co/d7c8hqfuO7
— DaBearsBlog (@dabearsblog) December 11, 2021
Jeff Ireland currently has the title of being the New Orleans Saints’ VP/Assistant General Manager – College Personnel. That sounds awfully close to a college scouting director role that Hoge mentioned, doesn’t it?
As an added bonus, Hughes explained his reasoning:
I just put Ireland in because that boy is circling the gig.
— DaBearsBlog (@dabearsblog) December 11, 2021
That exchange stuck with me, especially since Hughes tweeted in November that Jeff Ireland had told friends that working for the Bears would be his dream job.
For what it’s worth, Ireland has ample NFL experience. He has spent time with the Chiefs (Scout, 1997-2000), Cowboys (National Scout from 2001-04 and VP/College & Pro Scouting from 2005-07), Dolphins (GM, 2008-13), and Seahawks (Draft Consultant, 2014) before taking his current position with the Saints. Ireland is a Bill Parcells understudy, who worked with the legendary coach in Miami and Dallas. But he also has some long-standing ties to the Bears. As the Palm Beach Post notes, Ireland’s grandfather was a Bears scout in the 1980s. That position opened the door for Ireland to be a ballboy as a child. What a neat connection that is for these two sides.
Of course, it’s not all roses. Ireland, while serving as the Dolphins’ GM, had to apologize to Dez Bryant for asking whether his mother was a prostitute. That is an unsavory moment in football history. And one that Ireland should have to answer to should he be a part of any interview process. Nevertheless, the name goes on the board as one to keep an eye on moving forward.
Admittedly, this is a ton of dot connecting. But since the Bears are seemingly on the brink of an organizational line change, we need open our minds to the myriad of possibilities and scenarios that could play out in the coming days, weeks, and months. And especially when we can connect dots to a potential candidate with (1) serious Chicagoland ties and (2) connection with a franchise whose drafts have been given top billing in recent years. At minimum, it’s nice to dig into some new names.
In the end, the Bears still have four games to play. And we could still be waiting a while before official word comes down from Halas Hall. But that the ball is rolling on the discussion already is enough to give me hope for a brighter future. Or at least the ability to dream on a realistic path out from the hole the current regime has dug.