MOBILE, Ala. — Mickey Loomis knew the day was coming.
So when Ryan Pace finally left the Saints general manager’s shadow to run his own shop for the Bears, Loomis wasn’t mad. He has kept talking to Pace on the phone — a lot — to share guidance for what he considers a more than just a job promotion.
“If anybody has a son that’s graduated from high school or college, you know how excited and proud you are — and, yet, he’s not your kid anymore,” Loomis said during Senior Bowl practices this week. “It’s a little bit of that feeling.
“But I know that feeling of being overwhelmed at first, but, man, he’s handled it well.
“He’s made a lot of great decisions already. He did a great job in his press conference. I’m just proud of him.”
Pace, who signed a four-year contract and was named the new Bears GM 15 days ago, “absolutely” chose the right head coach in John Fox, Loomis said.
The former Broncos coach has paired with Pace this week to hire coordinators — Adam Gase on offense, Vic Fangio on defense — that impressed Senior Bowl onlookers.
“I knew years ago that Ryan Pace was going to be a general manager — he was going to have that opportunity,” Loomis said. “He was very patient. He’s had opportunities to interview in the past. He’s turned some of those down. But this one felt right for him. Man, I’m excited for him.”
So, too, is the Saints’ most visible player.
“He’s awesome,” quarterback Drew Brees said Thursday in Phoenix, where he is preparing for Sunday’s Pro Bowl. “Ryan Pace is a superstar. He is going to do a great job there.
“He’s a young guy, and yet you know he’s ready for this situation.
“It’s a great opportunity for him. It’s a great responsibility. And he’s going to do a fantastic job. He’s a quality person and great at what he does.”
Once the 37-year-old took the Bears job, he requested permission from Loomis to interview Josh Lucas, who scouted the South for the Saints, about moving to Chicago.
Loomis approved and later let Lucas out of his contract so he could be named the Bears’ director of player personnel — Pace’s lead deputy — on Sunday.
“Josh has been a big part of our college scouting staff for a number of years,” Loomis said. “He’s a good evaluator, he’s got good people skills. And so, look, it’s understandable that Ryan would want him.”
He said it was a “great opportunity for Josh to move up” after 10 seasons with the Saints.
Pace’s departure triggered a revamping of the Saints’ front office, Loomis said. This week, the team hired former Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland to oversee the college scouting process and fired longtime scouting director Rick Reiprish.
“When you lose a guy that caliber of Ryan Pace, obviously that’s a setback,” Loomis said. “You’ve got to replace that. So first you look in-house.
“I love the guys we have on our staff, but I felt like we needed to add an experienced, talented evaluator. …
“I also felt like it would be good for us to get some fresh ideas, meld those with the things we’ve done.”
Loomis is disappointed that he lost his right-hand man, but was happy to talk to him “more than a few times” during his transition.
“We talked a little bit — mostly about personal things and how he’s doing and a few questions here and there,” Loomis said. “He’s going to do well.”
Mark Potash contributed.