Recently, The Athletic‘s Mike Sando published a list of NFL GMs, along with their winning percentages. Of the 18 GMs who have been in the league at least five years, Ryan Pace ranked 14th in terms of winning percentage. Two of the guys behind him have been fired. One owns the Bengals, where winning isn’t that big of a deal. The fourth? Well, how does Jason Licht still have a job?
The truth about what needs to happen with Pace was painfully obvious on Sunday. He was hired largely because of two lopsided losses to the Green Bay Packers in 2014, wherein the Packers outscored the Bears 93-31. He has closed the gap a little, but in 2020 the Packers still outscored the Bears by a combined 35 points that would’ve been more if not for a couple of garbage time scores in October. Pace has had six off-seasons to eliminate the gap between these two rivals. He has failed to do so.
Yes. Pace inherited a tough job, but was it more difficult than what Les Snead was thrown into with the Rams or Steve Keim with the Cardinals? Doubtful. Heck, Jon Robinson inherited a team that just used the second pick on Marcus Mariota and has still managed to turn the Titans into a winner.
The tricky part about Pace is that he clearly has an eye for talent.
Even in Sunday’s blowout loss, there’s little doubt the Packers walked away thinking about how they’d have to play the likes of Kmet, Mooney and Montgomery for the foreseeable future. The 2020 draft class is looking like one of Pace’s best.
But the gap is still too large.
Forget about taking Mitch Trubisky over Patrick Mahomes for a second. Quarterbacks are a crapshoot. In a story about Rex Grossman, former Bears executive Bobby DePaul quoted Ted Thompson as saying “You don’t know whether you got a quarterback until you got him in your building.” The NFL’s best decision makers have missed on that position numerous times. Say what you will about Trubisky but he’s not as bad as some of the QB misses of the last decade.
The problem is that Pace has failed to build elsewhere.
He built the best defense in the league only to watch it regress to whatever it is now; despite repeated investments on that side of the ball. Pace knew the 2020 defense had to be great for the team to be a contender. Have they even been good? Sunday they had no shot at stopping Aaron Rodgers, looking just as helpless as they were six years ago.
Luckily for Pace, the Bears made the playoffs and have one last shot, but it’ll take a miracle for the team to make any significant run. Beating the Saints would mean they face the Packers for a third time; this time with the season actually on the line. It would be beyond shocking to see the Bears even competitive in that scenario.
There are plenty of rumors that Pace will remain the GM in 2021. But if the Bears are actually trying to close the gap with Green Bay, he shouldn’t be.