Ryan Pace back with the Bears
Photo credit: Atlanta Falcons

Bears Staff Shocked Ryan Pace Retained His Job in 2021

Published May 15, 2024 at 8:49

After the 2020 NFL season, a survey among Chicago Bears fans would likely have shown a unanimous desire for significant changes in the team's management, particularly with General Manager Ryan Pace and Head Coach Matt Nagy at the helm. Despite a playoff appearance, the overall direction of the team was clearly off track. The team struggled with discipline, and ongoing issues at the quarterback position had already led to a complete overhaul of the coaching staff, to no avail. The division title from 2018 seemed like a distant memory and a clear indicator for most well-run organizations that a fresh start was necessary. Yet, George McCaskey, the team's chairman, decided against this obvious course and chose to maintain the status quo into the next season.

Both fans and media were baffled by the decision to retain both Pace and Nagy. Ownership handed the reins back to two figures who were perceived to be on thin ice, allowing them full control over team resources at a critical juncture. At a time when prudence and strategic planning were called for, Pace and Nagy seemed to double down on their existing strategies, especially in trying to resolve the team's quarterback woes. Even insiders at Halas Hall were taken aback by the decision not to dismiss them, as revealed in a detailed two-part article by Tyler Dunne of Go Long.

One source close to the team's draft discussions was quoted as saying, "You don't let the GM who's likely on his way out trade up to draft a quarterback. It's a recipe for getting stuck in quarterback purgatory. You're setting up the team for failure when you make a high-stakes move like that with someone whose future is uncertain." An ex-assistant coach suggested that if the team was set on drafting a quarterback, the logical step would have been to either provide the current head coach with a robust contract extension to develop the new quarterback or to bring in a new coach who could start fresh.

Ultimately, the Bears appeared to be in a state of limbo. Ryan Pace, who once selected Mitch Trubisky over Patrick Mahomes in 2017—a decision widely regarded as a major blunder—was given another chance to fix the quarterback issue. Justin Fields, a standout college player, fell to the first round of the draft for specific reasons, including concerns about his decision-making under pressure. The theory was that with more time and experience, Fields could overcome these issues. However, the lack of a supportive infrastructure and consistent failures in acquiring key offensive talent meant that no one should have been surprised when the problems persisted. The best additions under Pace since 2015 included free agents like Allen Robinson and Bobby Massie, along with drafting some productive running backs and linemen. Yet, his record in building a team around a young, talented quarterback was less than stellar, resulting in continuous disappointments.

The consensus seemed clear: The Bears were mired in dysfunction, and retaining Pace for another year likely set the team back even further, making any chance of immediate improvement a distant hope.


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May 15   |   51 answers
Bears Staff Shocked Ryan Pace Retained His Job in 2021

Should the Bears have replaced GM Ryan Pace in 2021?

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