The continued employment of Bears general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy would seem to be linked to a 25-year-old with skills more suited for Optimist Club membership than professional football participation.
Nobody should feel sorry for any of them.
Pace was the one who traded up a spot to take Mitch Trubisky with the second overall pick in the 2017 draft.
Nagy was the one who came to Chicago to turn a relatively inexperienced quarterback into a star.
Trubisky is the one who isn’t particularly good at what he does.
These three men are so tied together that when one goes to the bathroom, they all do. It’s very awkward.
The question, then, is whether Trubisky could bring Pace and Nagy down with him, costing them their jobs. Normally, the answer would be a resounding yes. Trubisky has been bad this season, and hope for better things ahead from him appears to be waning. But these are the Bears, and normal doesn’t apply to them. I believe that the McCaskeys love everything about Pace and Nagy, except for the whole not winning part and, being forgiving people, are willing to overlook that.
Pace is the purposeful executive with the calming, we’re-in-this-together cadence to his voice.
Nagy is the upbeat, energetic coach whose fervor is contagious.
These are McCaskey-type people, more business-seminar folks than frothing Ditka types. They like a smile and a handshake. The cut of one’s jib, and all that. Trubisky, fresh-faced and agreeable, would have fit in perfectly had he been able to hit a receiver.
Nagy is under contract through the 2022 season, Pace through the 2021 season. That matters to the McCaskeys like air and earth tones do. They don’t like paying people who don’t work for them anymore.
So sad and so true: They will not fire the man who drafted Trubisky. They will allow the man who chose Trubisky over Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson to choose another quarterback to lead the Bears next season. That makes sense in some alternate universe. In this one, it makes you want to yank out your eyeballs with pliers.
In other words, business as usual for a franchise that hasn’t won a Super Bowl since the 1985 season. The only way that changes is if fans, fed up with being served the same bland food, stop showing up for the games. Money, the McCaskeys understand. The loss of it, they dread. If Trubisky and the Bears play poorly against the Lions on Sunday, Soldier Field will not be a friendly place for anyone named Ryan, Matt or Mitch.
But those boos will have to turn into empty seats for ownership to make big changes. And that, friends, is crazy. The sin of failing on a quarterback that high in the draft should cost somebody, possibly several somebodies, a job. That’s how professional sports work. That’s not how the Bears work.
It has always struck me as the strangest life to be so wedded professionally to young people. But for GMs and coaches, it’s a fact of life. Their futures sometimes depend on athletes barely old enough to drink legally. They need them, dearly.
It helps explain why coaches and execs go overboard when describing a player they just drafted. By the time they’re done praising him, you’re fairly certain the team has just landed a ferocious tackler, a brilliant student of the game and a Peace Corps volunteer. There’s no getting-to-know-you phase. There’s no courtship. There’s only mad love. Until the team doesn’t need him anymore.
I won’t repeat what Pace said about Trubisky in the hours and days after the 2017 draft. You’d have a sugar buzz that would last for days. And when you came down, your team would still be 3-5. The quarterback Pace envisioned bears no resemblance to the one we see today. This one leads an offense ranked 29th out of 32 teams. This one leads an offense that averages 186.2 passing yards a game, 30th in the league. This one has thrown a total of five touchdown passes in the six full games he has played.
Imagine that your job as a business leader depends on the production of one person. Imagine that the person’s production is poor. Imagine facing that reality when you walk into the office every morning.
While you’re busy imagining, you might want to imagine updating your résumé.
That’s where Pace and Nagy should be right now, thanks to Trubisky’s struggles. But I’ll bet they’re not. They’re where they’ll be in a year: inside Halas Hall, gainfully employed by the Chicago Bears.