MORRISSEY: Ryan Pace gets to pick Bears’ next coach? That’s good how?
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John Fox would appear to be on his last legs as the Bears’ head coach, which is good news for anyone who, through a sense of duty or an involuntary attraction to gore, has sat through the team’s performances the last three seasons.
If so, it means that Smilin’ Ryan Pace will have a strong say in choosing Fox’s replacement, which is bad news for anyone who, through heritage or a death wish, is a Bears fan.
It’s one of the bizarre facets of professional sports that a franchise can go through a horrendous stretch of losing and the person in charge of replacing the coach is the man who has overseen the operation during all that failure. It’s like a doctor who has lost patients through criminal negligence being allowed to remedy the situation by replacing the gurney.
I’d like to say that Pace, the Bears’ general manager, has to go, too, but I’d be afraid the McCaskeys would hire a mummified consultant who’d recommend a high school athletic director from the Chicago Catholic League Blue Division as Pace’s replacement.
This is the never-ending death spiral that is the Bears. You scream, I scream, we all scream.
We really don’t know much about Pace other than he seems very earnest and very jolly, and that he hasn’t had a very good three years on the job.
We know too much about ownership. We know the McCaskeys don’t want to fire anyone — ever. They don’t like dismissing fellow human beings, they don’t like the hassle of going through the hiring process and they don’t like spending money they don’t absolutely have to spend. They really don’t like the idea of giving a big-time coach total control of the franchise, a la Bill Belichick.
Of course the Bears should go after Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. Do you think the McCaskeys would give him the power he likely would want? Do you think Pace would want to be neutered?
What we have here is an ownership, which doesn’t know how to hire, ceding the hiring duties to someone who, if he has another bad year, shouldn’t be with the franchise anymore. Failure begetting failure.
The Bears’ rebuild seems to be powered by construction equipment with square wheels. It’s not easy finding success stories on the roster Pace has built. Running back Jordan Howard, a fifth-round pick in 2016, had an excellent rookie season. Pace signed defensive lineman Akiem Hicks through free agency the same year, and he has been a very nice addition. But you can’t find one player added during Pace’s time with the organization who has “star’’ written all over him. Pass rusher Leonard Floyd, the ninth overall pick last season? Who knows? Second-rounder Cody Whitehair? A definite maybe.
The player he chose with the second overall pick in this year’s draft, quarterback Mitch Trubisky, has struggled much more than he has succeeded this season. On Wednesday, fellow Sun-Times columnist Rick Telander tugged at Bears fans’ greatest fear — that the rookie might not turn out to be the transcendent talent his draft position would suggest he should be. Uh-oh.
Wide receiver has been a disaster. Trubisky can look bad on his own, but he has few reliable targets in the passing game. Kevin White, the seventh overall pick in the 2015 draft, can’t stay healthy. That falls on Pace because general managers are judged on results. No one cares about circumstances.
The results say the Bears were 6-10 in Pace’s first season, 3-13 last season and 3-8 headed toward what looks like 5-11 this season.
I’m starting to believe that a blindfolded Theo Epstein, with no background in pro football, could do better than any personnel expert the Bears have had in the past 30 years. The Cubs president hates when this idea is mentioned, even in jest, believing it’s an insult to people who have spent their entire professional life in football. He’s wrong. The idea doesn’t insult the Bears so much as it indicts them.
It’s just Pace’s luck that the 49ers, the Bears’ next opponent, have announced that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will start Sunday at Soldier Field. Garoppolo is the former Rolling Meadows High School and Eastern Illinois standout who gained renown as Tom Brady’s backup in New England. Bears fans had clamored for a trade that would bring him to Chicago, but it never happened. If Garoppolo, whom the 49ers acquired last month for a 2018 second-round pick, has a good game Sunday and Trubisky doesn’t, Smilin’ Ryan might need to go into hiding.
While critics aim their flamethrowers at the head coach, Pace has managed to avoid most of the heat. That’s interesting, considering he had a say in hiring Fox three years ago. Pace’s time might be coming. Then again, maybe not. Remember who owns the franchise.