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Bears GM Ryan Pace anxious to see what he’s got

“I think our team’s in a good state of mind,” Pace said in an interview with Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. “Everybody’s a little pissed off. Everybody has a chip on their shoulder. And I would love to be carrying that momentum through the OTAs and minicamps.”

Bears general manager Ryan Pace (greeting Mitch Trubisky and Kyle Long prior to the preseason game against the Titans last August) said he was impressed with Trubisky’s reaction to the team declining the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. “I think it’s going to be fun to see this play out.”
Bears general manager Ryan Pace (greeting Mitch Trubisky and Kyle Long prior to the preseason game against the Titans last August) said he was impressed with Trubisky’s reaction to the team declining the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. “I think it’s going to be fun to see this play out.”
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

In theory, the fractured NFL offseason figures to benefit established teams with winning systems in place — the Chiefs, Saints and Ravens at the top of the list.

The Bears? They’re way down that list coming off a disappointing 8-8 season but still one of the league’s more intriguing teams. Their top-10 defense is in place and aiming to regain its 2018 prowess with a healthy Akiem Hicks, an improving Roquan Smith and edge rusher Robert Quinn in place of Leonard Floyd. But their offense is a mess with a quarterback battle looming, two newcomers at the key tight end position and four new offensive coaches, including line coach Juan Castillo.

The Bears’ defense figures to hit the ground running whenever training camp starts. But the offense is at the opposite end of the spectrum — in dire need of on-the-field training and reps, reps and more reps.

Overall, the Bears just need to be out there playing football. They’re making the most of the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, with players “locked in” during virtual meetings via Zoom, according to coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace, and Hall of Fame guest speakers breaking the monotony and providing motivation.

But Pace, appearing on a podcast Friday with Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, acknowledged that despite the benefit of that alternative process, he feels the anxiety to be on the field.

‘‘It’s just been a process to get to this point right now,’’ Pace said. ‘‘That’s the one hard part about not all being together right now. I think our team’s in a good state of mind. Everybody’s a little pissed off. Everybody has a chip on their shoulder. And I would love to be carrying that momentum through the OTAs and minicamps.

‘‘Unfortunately, we don’t have that. We’re going to have to pick that up in training camp, whenever it starts, because I do feel like our team is in the right mindset right now.’’

This is new territory for Pace as a GM, but he is familiar with unorthodox circumstances. He was a scout with the Saints in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and forced the team to relocate to San Antonio and play its home games at LSU and the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Though it was a miserable season for the Saints, it also coincided with a monumental shift in the team’s fortunes. General manager Mickey Loomis fired coach Jim Haslett after a 3-13 season — extenuating circumstances be damned — hired Sean Payton, signed quarterback Drew Brees and the rest is history.

‘‘What happened in New Orleans during Katrina . . . really every time a hurricane came toward that city, we quickly adapted,’’ Pace said. ‘‘What I felt from leadership, with Sean and Mickey, is there was never an excuse. Let’s adapt and let’s adjust, and that’s what we did.’’

Pace said he was happy with quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s response to the Bears’ decision to decline the fifth-year option on his rookie contract.

‘‘Once he digested it, you could kind of see him clench his jaw and embrace it — ‘Hey, let’s go,’ ’’ Pace said. ‘‘I think it’s going to be fun to see this play out. Mitch and Nick [Foles] have been awesome in those [virtual] meetings — completely engaged.

‘‘The competition can’t really start until we start rolling in training camp. But you really like the mindset of both players. They both come in with a lot of knowledge of the offense. So they kind of have a leg up in the times that we’re dealing with right now, which has been good. But I love the way they’ve both embraced it. It’s been very healthy.’’