LAKE FOREST – Indeed there will be a complete rebuilding of the Bears when it comes to their football operations in 2022.
After firing head coach Matt Nagy, the Bears have also fired general manager Ryan Pace after seven seasons with the franchise.
Formerly the Saints Director of Player Personnel, Pace was hired by the Bears to be their general manager in January of 2015 to replace Phil Emery. In that time the team has hired two head coaches and made the playoffs twice, with a number of questionable moves made during that time that drew the ire of fans.
In previous days it was reported that Pace might be kept by the Bears in the general manager role or perhaps a new role, but that now appears not to be the case.
Rising through the ranks of the Saints organization, where he started as an operations assistant and then rose to director of player personnel, Pace arrived in Chicago with hopes of rebuilding a team that had fallen slowly out of contention to start the 2010s.
He hired head coach John Fox shortly after he was hired, a decision that was a franchise one as much as his, and his first round draft pick that first year was wide receiver Kevin White. He would miss that entire season with a leg injury and would never reach his potential in four years in Chicago.
Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd was the Bears’ next first round pick in 2016 with a controversial move coming before the start of that season. Kicker Robbie Gould, arguably the best kicker in the history of the franchise, was cut before the season, and the team would struggle to fill that position for the next four years.
Following that season, the Bears moved on from quarterback Jay Cutler as his eight-year run with the franchise came to an end. In an effort to replace him, Pace made two moves that offseason that would define his tenure: Signing quarterback Mike Glennon to a three-year, $45 million deal and trading up from the third position to the second to selected quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
Glennon’s signing would prove disastrous as he only lasted four games and Trubisky failed to live up to the spot of his selection, as each move would set the franchise back.
Yet success came to the Bears after they fired Fox after the 2017 season then hired Matt Nagy to take his place in January of 2018. Already with a strong defensive core built, Pace dealt two first round picks to acquire then sign All-Pro outside linebacker Khalil Mack to a six-year contract.
Adding him to the mix helped the Bears’ defense rise to the No. 1 ranking in the NFL in 2018, leading the team to a 12-4 record and the NFC North title. Unfortunately, a decision Pace made that offseason caught up to him, as kicker Cody Parkey’s infamous “double doink” field goal miss left the Bears a point short of the Eagles in the NFC Wild Card Game at Soldier Field.
That previous offseason, in hopes of fixing the kicker position that was in flux since the release of Gould, Pace signed Parkey to a four-year, $15 million deal with a $9 million signing bonus. The kicker was cut that spring after just one season with the team in which he hit multiple goal posts throughout the season with kicks.
After an unusual kicking tryout during the spring and a competition in fall camp, Eddy Pineiro was settled on as the kicker, but the team regressed in the second season under Nagy. Unable to find offensive rhythm and with the defense not quite as dominant with coordinator Vic Fangio, who left to take the Broncos’ head coaching job, the Bears slipped to 8-8.
To create quarterback competition, Pace traded for veteran Nick Foles in the offseason of 2020, absorbing the three years and $50 million left on his contract. Trubisky was named the starter but replaced during a Week 3 win over the Falcons, but the offensive issues were never solved. Eventually Mitchell became the Bears’ starter again, led the team to four-straight wins late in the season and a playoff berth with an 8-8 record.
The Bears would lose to the Saints 21-9 in the Wild Card game.
Once again, Pace tried to fix the quarterback problem in the offseason of 2021, first signing veteran Andy Dalton to a one-year, $10 million deal. Once again, he looked to the draft for quarterback help, trading a 2022 first round pick to move up to select Justin Fields from Ohio State.
With Foles on the roster and other big signings, the Bears were forced to cut Pro Bowl cornerback Kyle Fuller in the offseason. With other areas not addressed, the team slipped to 6-11 this past season.