Pace Sounds Like He’s About to Take a Chance on a Top Tight End

Jason Lieser at the Chicago Sun-Times bags on the Bears for releasing Trey Burton.

“[A] risky bet at tight end gets even riskier. Before last week, it looked like the Bears’ plan was to hope Burton got back to how he played in 2018 — a career-best 54 catches, 569 yards and six touchdowns — and/or Jimmy Graham suddenly emerged from his three-year slide at 33.

“Now it’s Graham or bust. At least that’s how the rest of the world sees it.

“‘There are some guys in that tight end room that are very intriguing and interesting for us,’ Pace said. ‘But also it’s a good tight end draft.’

“The six returning tight ends have a combined total of 61 career catches, and Demetrius Harris’ best output was 18 catches in 2017.

“And almost no one thinks this is a good draft for tight ends.”

Let me say  up front that I mostly agree with Lieser here.  Keeping Adam Shaheen, who has shown nothing since he was drafted in 2017, while throwing away Trey Burton, who has at least shown that he can be productive, seems to me to be a contradiction.

I understand that Burton’s got a relatively high salary and the Bears are up against the cap.  But perhaps they would have more cap room if they hadn’t chosen to throw $9 million guaranteed at a tight end who is over 30 and in decline.

Having said that, I’ll allow that “productive” is a relative term.  Availability is the best ability and Burton certainly has not been that, having missed the 2018 playoffs and all of 2019 with injuries.  Burton finished what was for all practical purposes his only season, 2018, with 54 catches for 569 yards.  That’s hardly star quality.

Burton’s signing combined with Shaheen’s less than impressive resume to this point compounds and highlights the problems that Pace has had evaluating the position.  Add the apparent misses on Mitch TrubiskyKevin White and Leonard Floyd and you aren’t going to get much positive press nowadays.

As for the draft, I found Pace’s comment about the tight end class to be interesting.  As Lieser says, the class has been almost universally panned.

General managers are often misleading before the draft but they rarely out right lie.   If Pace thinks it’s a good tight end class, I’d say that there’s a chance that he’s thinking of one earlier than most people would expect.

Go against the common wisdom and draft a really good, impact player at the position and no one will be talking about Burton in two years.

Just don’t be wrong.  Again.

Ryan Pace Has Only One Pitch: The Fast Ball.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions. And mine:

“I ask people about Ryan Pace and I get the two extremes. Either people defend him to the hilt for signings like Akiem Hicks or they trash him for decisions like the Mitch Trubisky pick. A year after winning Executive of the Year, Pace was rated the 19th-best general manager in the league by The list had only 25 GMs with a minimum of two offseasons. That put Pace in the bottom quarter of the league. Justified? — Tom S., Chicago

“I wasn’t familiar with this ranking until you mentioned it and I went and found it. The top of the list is populated by guys leading a lot of the teams consistently in the playoff mix. Eight of the top 12 were with playoff teams last season. Two other playoff GMs were non-qualifiers because they’re still new on the job. The Vikings’ Rick Spielman and the Packers’ Brian Gutekunst were the only GMs of playoff teams ranked outside the top 12. Pace has been on the job for five seasons and the Bears have had one winning season and one playoff appearance with no postseason victories. If they rebound this season and reach the playoffs, I’m guessing he would vault forward and get credit for the moves that brought the team success in 2020. Ultimately GMs are judged by their record. If you’re looking at the Bears record over the long haul, it’s underwhelming. The beauty is every team will start 0-0 this season with an opportunity to chart a new course. What matters to the Bears is how they perform this season. If they win, Pace would deserve to be bumped up, right? If they don’t, then maybe No. 19 was just about right. The 2017 draft always will be linked to Pace, but he has made moves to improve the organization and is credited as the driving force behind the impressive Halas Hall expansion and the introduction of many new layers of technology.”

I certainly do agree that Pace will be bumped up if the Bears win this year. And the more they win this year, the more he will be bumped up. If they win 12 games again, he’ll be executive of the year again. That’s the way the league and its fans work.

But having said that, I think Pace is more susceptible to this up and down motion that most.

In his five seasons with the Bears on thing has become evident about Pace. He’s extremely aggressive. Part of that is because he comes from a Saints organization that has the same philosophy. Pace has traded up in the draft six times compared to only three times moving down. He favors the kind of maneuvering that leaves you constantly short on both draft picks and cap space.

Pace evidently believes that general managers should be like young players in training camp. Many coaches tell rookies just one thing about making mistakes. You are going to do it. Just make sure that when it happens, you do it at full speed.

That’s how you end up trading up to get Mitch Trubisky even though most pundits didn’t think it was necessary. Thats why you pay $9 million guaranteed to a tight end on the wrong side of thirty that everyone else thinks is in decline.

If you believe in it, you don’t take anything off of the pass. You throw the deep ball as hard as you can. Whether you are about to hit on a player who is going to make your career or who is going to be its biggest mistake, you do it with every aggressive bone in your body screaming.

That’s how you end up on the roller coaster of public opinion. You are always going to be judged on your latest on top of the world success or your biggest lower than a snakes belly depression.

Where will Pace be on next year’s list? Who knows. But where ever it is, he’s headed there extremely fast.

Bears General Manager Ryan Pace Lacks Long-Term Vision at the Quarterback Position

Colleen Kane at the Chicago Tribune quotes Bears general manager Ryan Pace on why he has failed to take quarterbacks in the draft.

“‘To be honest, when we got here, we had so many needs, there were so many holes to fill throughout the roster, you’re doing whatever you can to fill those holes,’ Pace said. ‘And so sometimes when you look at the draft and you have more talented players on the board that are also hitting major positions of need and major holes on this offense, it doesn’t always line up.

“‘But I do think that drafting a quarterback, developing quarterbacks, that’s important for the franchise for a lot of different reasons. You’ve seen teams do that to their advantage to flip them for draft picks. It’s something we talk about. It just hasn’t been something that’s lined up in recent drafts.”‘

Yada, yada, yada.

My tendency when it comes to this topic has been to cut Pace some slack because since 2017 the coaching staff has been concentrating on developing Mitch Trubisky and drafting another quarterback might have been counter productive.

But what I’m reading above is just nonsense. Pace is making excuses rather than pointing the thumb and blaming himself for his lack of long-term vision.

Pulling the trigger and actually taking a player for the long-term health of the franchise, one that might not provide any immediate benefit, takes discipline.  And Pace’s comments tell me nothing more than he lacks it.

Follow the Investment, Not Just the Money, on Mitch Trubisky Vs. Nick Foles

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Was the Nick Foles trade a way for Ryan Pace to add a veteran quarterback without admitting Mitch Trubisky is not the guy? — @jhartzmark

“No. How is it not apparent that swapping a fourth-round pick
and guaranteeing Foles a little more than $20 million isn’t a complete
admission that Trubisky is not the guy? If Trubisky were the guy, the Bears would have kept the draft pick and earmarked that money for other needs.

“This isn’t the kind of investment a team makes for a QB2. It’s far and away more than they provided for Chase Daniel to be the clipboard holder the last two seasons. The addition of Foles signals a restructuring of the depth chart at the position that will happen soon. I don’t believe the Bears added Foles to motivate or push Trubisky and I don’t believe he was brought in to be a fallback plan in the event Trubisky is inconsistent at the start of the season. Follow the money and put the pieces together. This move was made to get a starting quarterback for the start of the 2020 season. That’s my takeaway.”

Biggs has been very vocal in his opinion that Foles will be the starting quarterback this September.  I’m not so sure for a variety of reasons:

  1. The follow the money point of view is always one that is always well taken. But Foles really isn’t getting paid starting quarterback money in today’s NFL. Its true that $21 million is a lot to pay for
    a quarterback who to the bench.  But I think the Bears would gladly pay it if Trubisky actually won the job.

    I prefer to think of this philosophy less in terms of money than in terms of investment. Guaranteeing someone s lot of money is most assuredly an investment. But so is drafting and spending three years developing a young quarterback who, if he develops, could stabilize your franchise for 10 years yet.

    Trubisky rebounding to have a good year would be far and away the best outcome for the Bears, no matter how unlikely you think the odds are that will happen

  2. I’ve already made the point that patience may pay off for the Bears when it comes to Trubisky.His history at North Carolina points to the possibility that he’s slow
    to develop but that once he figures it out, he could be very good.

    There’s no doubt that Trubisky has to do a better job of learning the offense. This is the only way that he will ever get to the point where he can anticipate and respond to movement after the snap. But time may take care of the issue.

  3. The Bears have a better idea of how to handle Trubisky now than they did last season.Trubisky seems to respond well to pressure, at least on the field. Bringing the team back to put them into field goal range in the playoff loss to the Eagles with minimal time on the clock was the most well-known example but it wasn’t the only time he’s done that. Its happened often enough to where you have to believe it wasn’t a fluke.Everything head coach Matt Nagy touched in 2018 turned to gold, eventually earning him coach of the year honors. But its fair to say the opposite happened in 2019. That starts with the way he handled Trubisky.In the offseason of 2019, the Nagy turned the heat down on Trubisky, actually telling the media that he had to encourage Trubisky to go home and relax in the offseason. He gave Trubisky, along with the entire team, the preseason off.I think its fair to say there will be no more of that this year.

    The Bears are turning the heat up on Trubisky by adding Foles and, in my opinion, probably another rookie in the draft. And Nagy has already confirmed that the quarterbacks will be competing in the preseason games.

    I think his history on the field suggests that Trubisky might respond.  In either case, they clearly aren’t committing the sin of doing the same thing over and over again hoping the result will be different every time.

Last year at this time I can remember the whole NFL predicting
huge things from the Bears offense with Trubisky taking the next step in his development. Just as I thought this was
an overly optimistic point of view then, I find the extreme pessimism exhibited by some of the same members of the media now to be an overreaction.

I’m not saying that Biggs isn’t right and that Foles won’t be beginning the season as the starter. In fact, I think
the odds are reasonably good he will be. The Bears clearly aren’t going to stick with a quarterback who isn’t working out. The position is too important. Certainly the Foles signing
is an acknowledgement of that.

But completely discounting a 25 year old quarterback after a one
year regression doesn’t sound to me like something the Bears will be – or should be – doing. And I certainly don’t think signing Foles indicates that they have.