Why drafting a QB might have been the Bears’ plan all along

The only thing scarier than the idea the Bears’ quarterback hunt didn’t go according to plan this offseason is the notion it did.

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The only thing scarier than the idea the Bears’ quarterback hunt didn’t go according to plan this offseason is the notion it did.

That, of course, would be ludicrous. General manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy surely haven’t decided to stake their careers on the right arm of Andy Dalton, a quarterback who has won only 24 of his last 65 games, right? Pace surely won’t let his tenure end by having drafted Mitch Trubisky and not a single other quarterback, right?

By that rationale, it’s likely — if not certain — the Bears will add a quarterback in the draft this week. There’s room for one, too, with only Dalton and Nick Foles under contract.

Pace could trawl the depths of the trade market for someone such as Gardner Minshew, who will be made irrelevant the minute the Jaguars draft Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence No. 1 overall on Thursday. He could select Stanford’s Davis Mills in Round 2 or Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond in Round 3. Both are perfectly defensible developmental projects.

Pace’s reputation, however, suggests he’ll think bigger and at least will explore a trade up from the No. 20 pick to grab a quarterback.

After the Jaguars take Lawrence, the Jets are expected to draft BYU quarterback Zach Wilson. The 49ers traded three years’ worth of first-round picks to move up to No. 3, where they’ll choose from quarterbacks Mac Jones of Alabama, Justin Fields of Ohio State and Trey Lance of North Dakota State.

Pace might trade up to draft either of the remaining two quarterbacks — if he’s willing to pay a steep price. The Falcons’ No. 4 pick will cost more than the 49ers paid. If a quarterback slides, however, the cost would move from crippling to merely painful.

Drafting outside the top 10 for the first time, Pace is at the mercy of other teams.

‘‘Some of it’s in our control, some of it’s not in our control,’’ he said during his annual tight-lipped predraft news conference Tuesday. ‘‘It’s just exploring all the different options at the quarterback position and the positions throughout our team.’’

A GM who has crowed about having ‘‘a no-regrets mindset,’’ Pace takes home-run swings, for better or — as it pertains to the first round — worse. He won’t shorten up his swing just because his career is facing a two-strike count.

Desperation is a great motivator, not that Pace needs it. In his first six drafts with the Bears, he has traded four of his first-round picks: two to move up to draft outside linebacker Leonard Floyd and Trubisky and two to trade for outside linebacker Khalil Mack.

Beyond the top two quarterbacks, the draft gets murky fast. Coronavirus concerns canceled the NFL Scouting Combine. Some players opted out of their seasons, while other conferences played shortened schedules. Lance played one game last year and Mills five.

On Tuesday, Pace ticked off what the Bears look for when they move up to take a player: a consensus among team scouts and coaches, physical skills, mental makeup, a clean medical grade, intelligence and football IQ.

‘‘As you’re putting this puzzle together, this pie chart together for each player, it kind of gives you confidence when to go up,’’ he said.

Pace said the Bears’ quarterbacks room could be a good incubator for a young passer. He praised the involvement of Nagy, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo in draft prep. None of the three were on staff when Pace took Trubisky.

Pace said he meets frequently with chairman George McCaskey and president/CEO Ted Phillips, too, to keep them updated on the Bears’ draft plans.

‘‘Every offseason there’s a storyline, right?’’ Pace said. ‘‘And every day there’s a different turn. And I just think bringing our staff and our ownership along on this storyline is a big part of my job.’’

Pace has only a few more days to change the storyline. To do anything less would be admitting Dalton was the Bears’ storybook ending all along.

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