True or false? Gauging the veracity of Bears GM Ryan Pace and Bulls coach Jim Boylen
Pace’s thoughts on Trubisky, Boylen’s on wins and losses go under the microscope.
‘‘What is truth?’’ said Pontius Pilate, who coached Class A ball in the Roman Empire.
It’s an excellent question, especially when it comes to big-time sports, where lying is done so enthusiastically, you’d think bonus money was attached to it.
I ask because the last few days featured comments by Bears general manager Ryan Pace and Bulls coach Jim Boylen that have been put on a microscope slide and analyzed for traces of truth.
Let’s start with Pace, who works in the NFL, an institution that has a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Even Think About It’’ policy attached to just about everything. Here’s what he had to say when asked Tuesday if the Bears’ plan is for Mitch Trubisky to be their starting quarterback in 2020:
“To be clear, yes, it is. We believe in Mitch. Mitch knows he needs to be better. We need to be better around him.”
Because the league is all about subterfuge and misdirection, the impulse was to not believe a word Pace had uttered. Following that instinct, a savvy observer of sports would say that Pace was lying through his teeth, that Trubisky will, at a minimum, face steep competition in camp and that the quarterback can kiss his fifth-year option goodbye. According to this way of thinking, Pace clearly wants another QB but doesn’t want to show his cards just yet.
But that standard approach runs face-first into Pace’s habit of gushing, always, about Trubisky. If you ask him if he has filed his taxes yet or when it’s going to be shorts weather, he’ll end up complimenting the player he picked second overall in the 2017 draft.
If you ask Pace what he likes about Trubisky, as a reporter did Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine, you might want to wear a poncho.
“I think he’s accurate, he’s athletic, he can process, his work ethic, how he is as a teammate,” he said.
Anyone who watched Trubisky struggle last season knows that he isn’t an accurate passer and has trouble translating what he sees on the field into a good course of action.
So where does that leave us, truth-wise? In the strangest of places, a town called Tru Belief. Pace really, really thinks Trubisky will be good someday and doesn’t want to bring in serious competition for his quarterback. My guess is that the only thing stopping him from giving Mitch that fifth year now is the storm it would cause if he announced it so soon after a bad season for the team and the player.
That’s the truth as Pace sees it. It’s truth as seen through the eyes of a guy who is lashed to the prow of the Good Ship Mitch.
Boylen is a different matter. He says things that make you think, “He can’t possibly be this naïve.’’ Before another Bulls loss, this one on Tuesday to the Thunder, he said he’d be “shocked’’ if, after the season, the front office evaluated him on the basis of wins and losses.
Wins and losses — as in, keeping score, the whole idea of professional sports?
“That’s not my calling,’’ Boylen said. “That’s not what they ask me to do. Nobody in this organization said to me, ‘You’ve got to win this many games.’ Nobody said to me, ‘Hey, we’re going to talk about wins and losses all year.’ Not one time have they said that to me. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to win. It doesn’t mean we’re not trying to win, but nobody said that to me.
“I have to honor the organization with trying to do this thing the right way. If we do that and if we can get healthy, I feel good about it.”
Is that a lie? Maybe a first cousin, once or twice removed. It’s a shaping of the truth to fit Boylen’s needs. Would Bulls vice president John Paxson really have given his head coach the impression that victories don’t matter? I find that hard to believe with someone as competitive as Paxson is.
Would Bulls president Michael Reinsdorf, who has seen attendance fall, agree that this season isn’t about the few victories (20) and all the defeats (39)? In Year 3 of a rebuild? Again, hard to believe.
Nobody can be this childlike, which is why I’m calling B.S. on Boylen’s comments. What we have here, I believe, is an energetic act of butt-covering. He wants everyone to know that another bad Bulls season has been about developing players, building an identity and … I’m about to be ill … establishing a good locker-room culture. So pay no attention to the pile of losses in the corner, he’s telling us.
Sorry, not buying it. Everything in sports is measured by the number of victories you have. But not in Boylen’s world, if his comments are to be believed. In his world, the quality of a novel apparently isn’t based on quality, reader enjoyment or best-seller lists. It’s based on some vague something or other — how many words the novelist types per minute, perhaps. What a strange read on life. One that doesn’t ring true.