Most Impactful Bear: Khalil Mack, Ryan Pace, Matt Nagy or Mitch Trubisky?

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Bears linebacker Khalil Mack strips the ball from Rams quarterback Jared Goff on Dec. 9 at Soldier Field. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Nobody on the Bears is looking to take credit for the team’s wildly successful season. It’s one of the best attributes of this playoff-bound group. If there is someone with a massive ego, he’s employing superhuman strength to suppress it.

But the Bears’ modesty doesn’t prevent the rest of us from trying to pinpoint the person most responsible for flipping a 2017 hovel into a 2018 palace.

I happen to think it’s linebacker Khalil Mack, who has lifted all boats within 100 nautical miles of wherever he is at any given moment. But you might think someone else has been more valuable. That’s the beauty of this team and this season. There’s room for debate.

Here are some candidates who come to mind immediately, with my thoughts on the amount of credit they deserve and my Most Impactful Bear rating (10 being the highest, 1 the lowest):

Mack: He has made everybody better — players, coaches, management and ownership. If the Bears hadn’t acquired him before the season, they probably would have been the 8-8 team many of us thought they would be, fewer of their defenders would have made the Pro Bowl and the Sun-Times would have published a 10-part series on the unspeakable horror of Leonard Floyd as a first-round pick.

Opposing defenses have had to account for Mack on every play this season, sometimes devoting two blockers to the myth of being able to stop him. But when he gets a sack by hurling himself backward at the quarterback, as he did against the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers last Sunday, it’s clear that escape is futile.

I don’t want to minimize the accomplishments of cornerback Kyle Fuller and safety Eddie Jackson, who have been outstanding. But quarterbacks tend to rush passes when Mack is rushing the passer. That leads to interceptions. And that leads to a better Fuller and Jackson. Floyd, the ninth pick overall in the 2016 draft, also has improved this season, with the Mack Effect playing a major role.

You can reduce everything this season to one thought: No Mack, no playoffs.

Most Impactful Bear (MIB) rating: 10.

Ryan Pace: Supporters of Pace for MIB will want to know how Mack could have been an impactful Bear without the general manager pulling strings and triggers to get him. It’s a very good question. Pace had the vision — and the nerve — to part with two first-round picks to land Mack. That’s a huge price in the NFL.

You can make the case for Raiders coach Jon Gruden being just as instrumental as Pace in getting Mack to Chicago. For reasons that still escape most people, Gruden wanted to be free of a bona fide superstar. Pace pulled off the deal of the season.


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But players, not GMs, play. That’s the difference in our discussion. Mack plays extremely well, and he’s the No. 1 reason Pace went from being on the hot seat after a 5-11 season in 2017 to being lauded for his acumen this season. Pace found the one player who improved all the Bears’ lives, and nobody’s life has improved more

than Pace’s.

MIB rating: 8.

Matt Nagy: It’s the old question: Which comes first, the winning or the fun? Probably the winning. But even before the victories started piling up, Nagy smuggled joy into musty Halas Hall, which had seemed allergic to it for decades. It’s not just his gimmick plays, though they have added to the merriment.

He has brought a genuineness to coaching that you rarely see in pro sports. It’s not rah-rah stuff. It’s not an over-the-top, look-at-me show. He believes, and he makes the people around him believe. That’s not easy to do in the NFL.

The phrase of the moment is ‘‘locker-room culture.’’ Every coach and GM talks about it as though it’s the ingredient. Winning games makes for the best locker-room culture of all. Nagy gets some of the credit for all of it — the fun, the culture, the winning.

MIB rating: 8.

Mitch Trubisky: He already had pressure on him, but it increased when Pace traded for Mack before the season began. Suddenly, the Bears had a championship defense. Would Trubisky get in the way of success?

The answer, mostly, has been no. He’s middle-of-the-pack in most of the major statistical categories for quarterbacks, and the up-and-down nature of his performances hasn’t stopped the Bears from going 10-4. That’s no small accomplishment for a player in his second season.

When it comes to the Bears’ success, it’s hard to quantify where Nagy’s play-calling ends and Trubisky’s talent begins. But the bottom line is that the offense, with the second overall pick in the 2017 draft leading it, has been effective. And with massive pressure on Trubisky not to screw up a good thing, that’s impressive.

MIB rating: 5.

The air-raid siren and public-address announcer at Soldier Field: Uh, no. Bears fans don’t need to be told when to cheer, when to make noise or when to belch the words to ‘‘Bear Down, Chicago Bears.’’ This is not an expansion franchise, and these are not fans lacking in knowledge of the game. Let me hear ya: Please stop!

MIB rating: 1.

The winner? Mack. Which is to say, everyone.

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