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At 37, the Bears’ Ryan Pace is the NFL’s youngest GM

Bears take their shot, hire GM Ryan Pace

SHARE Bears take their shot, hire GM Ryan Pace
SHARE Bears take their shot, hire GM Ryan Pace

Perhaps forgetting about the Bears’ less-than-stellar history at quarterback, adviser Ernie Accorsi nonetheless made the comparison to chairman George McCaskey after they interviewed Ryan Pace for the general-manager vacancy Wednesday.

Pace was the signal-caller, dripping with talent.

‘‘[Accorsi] said, ‘When you see that great young quarterback, you’ve got to take him,’ ’’ McCaskey said Friday. ‘‘That’s the analogy he applied to Ryan. So we think — and we hope — we have the right guy.’’

One day after making Pace their bold GM selection Thursday — he was chosen over three others, including former Bears executive Chris Ballard — the Bears introduced him as Phil Emery’s replacement. Pace, formerly the New Orleans Saints’ director of player personnel, received a five-year contract and assurances he would oversee the Bears’ football operations.

‘‘I feel really good that I’m empowered,’’ Pace said. ‘‘That’s why I’m here.’’

Pace, the youngest GM in the NFL at 37, might tweak the Bears’ scouting structure to make it more similar to the Saints’. He’ll have final say on the 53-man roster but said he hopes he and the Bears’ next coach will have a close enough relationship to shape it together.

Pace called hiring a coach his top priority, though he was vague about the details, other than to say he had scheduled interviews. He claimed no preference for an offense-first or defense-first coach, nor did he favor a particular scheme.

‘‘I’m still evaluating the roster,’’ Pace said. ‘‘I really want to get down to the details. But, again, it starts with hiring the right head coach.’’

Pace preached about the importance of a running game and a strong defense, particularly given the weather conditions late in the season.

‘‘When you think about the Chicago Bears’ identity over the years, it’s tough, physical defense,’’ he said. ‘‘And we’re going to get back to that.’’

Pace described advanced analytics as ‘‘a tool in our toolbox’’ to evaluate talent, but he joked he wasn’t ‘‘some ‘Moneyball’ GM.’’

Whatever the metric, he knows the Bears need an infusion of young talent to compete for a title every season.

‘‘The recipe to winning Super Bowls is stringing successful drafts together again and again,’’ he said. ‘‘We are not just collecting athletes; we are acquiring football players that fit the Chicago Bears. There will be a major emphasis on character, toughness, instincts and intelligence.’’

Whether quarterback Jay Cutler will be among that group will be a decision left up to Pace and whomever he hires as coach. Pace was careful not to say much about Cutler, other than he wouldn’t judge him solely off film.

‘‘I want to get to know Jay,’’ he said. ‘‘I want to get to know him further before I come to these conclusions.’’

Pace said he planned to meet with Cutler, but not until he was done with the coaching search. He pledged to be thorough but said he wouldn’t be rushed by the start of Senior Bowl activities Jan. 19.

Pace’s whirlwind, which began with his interview Wednesday and continued with his hiring and meeting with Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles on Thursday, is just beginning.

‘‘He blew us away with his intellect, with his forward thinking about always wanting to improve and get better,’’ Phillips said. ‘‘He never once came across as thinking that he had all the answers.’’

But Pace knows he’ll need some answers soon.

‘‘We’re all judged on wins and losses,’’ Pace said. ‘‘I understand that. In fact, I thrive on that. I know I’m evaluated on wins and losses. As far as the time frame and all that, I’m not concerned with that. I want to win. I want to win.’’

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley

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