It’s amazing that Bears president/CEO Ted Phillips was able to do gymnastics while sitting at his desk.
While explaining the franchise’s decision to keep general manager Ryan Pace for another season, Phillips said Wednesday he didn’t view his career record as 42-54.
Rather, Phillips said he splits Pace’s career into two three-year chunks — from 2015-17, when he went 14-34, and from 2018-20, when he went 28-20.
By that rationale, Pace Part 2 has been a big improvement than Pace Part 1. Therefore, he gets to stay.
See how that works? Convenient, huh?
“The reality is, if you break his tenure from 2015-17 and then 2018-20, there have been vast improvements in 2018-20,” he said. “And a lot of that has to do with the trust level that’s been built between [coach] Matt [Nagy] and Ryan, how they make decisions.
“You can ask Ryan yourself if he has had learnings from his first three years to his last three. I think you’ll hear that he has. That’s what we heard. . . . When we’ve looked at that and we’ve looked at how the drafts have improved in the last three years versus the prior three years, we see lots of reasons for hope.”
If there’s a thin case to be made for Pace staying, it’s that he had to tear down Phil Emery’s bloated roster before he could build it back up. The argument for Pace being fired is more obvious: that such parsing should be unnecessary for someone who has been the GM for six years and has an ample sample size. During Pace’s tenure, only one other decision-maker has kept his job as long without winning a playoff game. And that is Browns executive Mike Brown — who also happens to own the team.
Phillips’ line of draft demarcation, of course, excludes Pace drafting quarterback Mitch Trubisky No. 2. Or outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, the No. 9 pick who has 12½ sacks — and counting — since Pace decided to let him walk last year. Or receiver Kevin White, the No. 7 pick who has played 31 NFL snaps since the Bears let his contract expire two years ago.
The draft list in the last three years includes one first-round pick, inside linebacker Roquan Smith, plus tight end Cole Kmet, a second-round pick, and running back David Montgomery, a third-round selection. Phillips paid only brief lip service to the Bears’ quarterback failure.
“We have a young foundation that we can build on,” he said. “You’ve all brought up the quarterback situation — totally get it.”
Do they? This is how hard Phillips and chairman George McCaskey worked to frame Pace’s Bears career just so: in 41 minutes Wednesday, they mentioned one Bears player by name. It wasn’t Khalil Mack or Allen Robinson or Eddie Jackson or Walter Payton or Dick Butkus.
It was rookie receiver Darnell Mooney.
“Darnell Mooney is a good example, a lower-round draft pick that Ryan and Matt found that blossomed this year and became a key part of our offense,” McCaskey said.
Mooney, a fifth-round pick who finished with 631 yards, is a good find. But praising Pace while ignoring his first-round mistakes is like crediting him for finding coins between the cushions of a couch that’s on fire.
“We all have high expectations, and 2020 wasn’t good enough,” Pace said. “And I get that and I understand that. Ownership has given us an opportunity. They’ve given us all the resources we can ask for. And now, that’s on Matt and I to prove them right.”
That sets up 2021 as a win-or-else year — but wasn’t that 2020?
Nagy’s contract runs through 2022. Pace signed an extension three years ago through 2021, though both Phillips and the GM himself took the bizarre tack Wednesday of refusing to confirm when Pace’s deal expires.
Phillips was adamant a contract extension wasn’t on the table this offseason, but sounded optimistic that it could be. That might be more galling than the decision to bring Pace back for 2021.
“When we show improvements,” Phillips said, “contracts will take care of themselves.”