Bears chairman George McCaskey will spend the final month of a lost season weighing Ryan Pace’s performance and deciding if the general manager needs to be fired.
In six seasons, Pace has his hits — he signed Akiem Hicks and Allen Robinson, and drafted Eddie Jackson and Tarik Cohen in the fourth round. It’s the misses, though, that are dragging him down.
With Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson — a shining example of Pace’s biggest mistake — coming to town, here’s a look at Pace’s six most glaring errors as Bears GM:
1. April 27, 2017: Traded four picks to move up and draft QB Mitch Trubisky No. 2 overall
The minute Pace gave the 49ers the Bears’ third pick, plus a third- and fourth-rounder in 2017 and a third-rounder in 2018, to move up one spot, he knew his career forever would be tied to Trubisky’s success.
He was right.
Pace took Trubisky eight spots ahead of Patrick Mahomes, the 2018 NFL MVP and Super Bowl champion. Two spots after the Chiefs took Mahomes, the Texans drafted Watson, who since has reached the Pro Bowl twice and cemented himself as one of the league’s best young quarterbacks.
During the lead-up to the draft, Pace said “you want to see a guy who has elevated a program” when evaluating future franchise quarterbacks. He instead took Trubisky, who went 8-5 as a starter at North Carolina. The Bears coveted Trubisky’s accuracy and were concerned that Watson could be susceptible to serious injury. Watson tore his knee two months into his rookie year.
Mahomes and Watson have become the embodiment of young quarterbacks. Trubisky, by contrast, saw his fifth-year option declined and will be a free agent after the season.
2. March 18, 2020: signed OLB Robert Quinn to a five-year, $70 million deal
The Bears cut first-round pick Leonard Floyd, who struggled to rush the quarterback, and signed the 30-year-old Quinn to a monster contract — with $30 million guaranteed — to provide a threat opposite Khalil Mack.
Floyd has seven sacks with the Rams, as many as he had in his last two Bears years combined. Quinn, who said he picked the Bears over the Falcons via coin flip, had a sack on his first snap of the season. He has none since.
The Bears are stuck with him next year. They’d have to take a $23.9 million dead cap hit if they cut him, versus a $14.7 million cap hit were he to stay. They’ll likely cut him after 2021, when he will have made $30 million.
OvertheCap.com ranks his contract the second-worst in the NFL.
3. April 30, 2015: Drafted West Virginia WR Kevin White No. 7 overall
The first pick Pace ever made was among his worst. He took White, a physical specimen who ran a limited route tree with the Mountaineers, three spots ahead of Todd Gurley.
Perhaps it wasn’t Pace’s fault that White’s body conspired against him. White first began limping in rookie-year OTAs, was shut down that June with a stress fracture in his left shin and was booked for surgery during training camp. During that ordeal, new coach John Fox lied about the injury when pressed by reporters, starting his Bears stint with distrust from which he never recovered.
White didn’t play as a rookie and finished his next two seasons on injured reserve because of a broken fibula/severely sprained ankle in 2016 and a broken shoulder blade in 2017. Finally healthy in 2018, he made the game-day roster only nine times. He finished his Bears career with 25 catches — and made $16.4 million.
4. March 10, 2017: Signed QB Mike Glennon to a three-year, $45 million deal
Pace made Glennon the world’s most expensive Trojan horse, but Glennon was the last to know it. He was at a team-sponsored draft watch party downtown, schmoozing with season-ticket holders as the Bears’ presumptive quarterback of the future, when Pace shocked the league and traded up to draft Trubisky.
Publicly, the team prepped Glennon to start throughout 2017 — “This is my year,” Glennon repeated — but the Bears pulled the plug after a 1-3 start that ended with Butterfinger mocking him on Twitter for fumbling a snap at Lambeau Field.
Trubisky replaced Glennon in Week 5, and Glennon never saw the field for the Bears again. He left at the end of the year, having made $18.5 million — or $483,370.97 for each completion.
The contract didn’t cripple the Bears long-term, but it proved to be the first of three brutal quarterback evaluations by Pace.
5. Sept. 4, 2016: Cut K Robbie Gould
Pace got rid of franchise stalwart Robbie Gould, believing he was in decline. He was wrong. More damning, Pace never replaced him. After using three kickers over the next two seasons, Pace gave Cody Parkey a four-year, $15 million deal, with $9 million guaranteed, in March 2018.
Parkey went on to have one of the most soul-crushing years in Bears history.
During the regular season, he missed seven field-goal attempts and three extra points. He hit the uprights four times in one game against the Lions — twice on extra points and twice on field goals — prompting a WGN traffic helicopter to film him practicing at Soldier Field the next week.
Then came the ultimate kick in the pants: Parkey double-doinked a 43-yard field-goal attempt that would have won the Bears’ wild-card playoff game against the Eagles.
Parkey infuriated the Bears by appearing on NBC’s “Today” show later that week without their advance knowledge, and they soon decided to cut him.
The Bears paid Parkey $3.5 million last year even though he wasn’t on the team. He accounted for $4.125 million in dead cap money in 2019 and $1.125 million this year.
6. April 28, 2017: Drafted TE Adam Shaheen in Round 2
In part to recoup draft capital he’d given up for Trubisky the day before, Pace traded back in the second round to take Division II Ashland tight end Adam Shaheen.
Pace tried to sell Shaheen as a matchup nightmare; instead, he caught 33 passes in three years before the Bears traded him to the Dolphins in July. The Cardinals, who traded up with the Bears, drafted Budda Baker and have since made him the NFL’s highest-paid safety.
Still needing a pass-catching weapon in 2018, Pace gave Trey Burton a four-year, $32 million deal. The $18 million guaranteed at signing was the fourth-highest amount ever for a tight end. After a standout first season, Burton woke up with a groin injury the day before the wild-card playoff game. Surgery didn’t fix the problem during the offseason, and he was hampered in five starts for the Bears last year.
In the spring, Pace paid Burton to go away. He signed with the Colts, where he has three receiving touchdowns and two rushing scores this year. Still chasing a pass-catching tight end, Pace agreed to add Jimmy Graham to a two-year, $16 million deal in March.
OvertheCap.com considers the Graham deal — which will amount to one-year at $9 million when the Bears likely cut him after the season — to be the 11th-worst in the NFL.