Homework? GM Ryan Pace should stand alone as head of Bears football

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Bears general manager Ryan Pace watches warmups before the Bears game against the Vikings on Monday Night Football on Oct. 9 at Soldier Field (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

Ryan Pace alone.

Unless John Fox is by his side at the podium to explain what went wrong — not an unprecedented occurrence, by the way — the news conference to announce the Bears’ expected coaching change after the season finale Sunday against the Vikings should be exclusively a Ryan Pace show.

After an NFL Network report by Ian Rapoport that team president Ted Phillips is “doing homework” on candidates to replace Fox, this reminder is necessary: The McCaskeys and upper management that got the Bears into this mess need to stay out of the way — and literally out of the picture — to make a statement that the general manager they hired to clean it up is the guy in charge here.

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Any McCaskey presence — other than to announce the sale of the team — will be a bad look and a red flag. No offense to the McCaskeys, a rightfully proud Chicago family, but if you’re going to let the football people make the football decisions, this ownership’s role in the upcoming event should be a prepared statement in the news release.

As for Pace himself and his future with the Bears … if you think the Bears’ problems go higher than Fox, you better head straight to the top and demand the McCaskeys sell the team or relinquish day-to-day control. Because if the Bears are so screwed up that they need to hire a third GM in seven years, it’s highly unlikely this ownership is going to find that right guy.

2.For the record, it’s not that unusual for a Bears coach to attend the news conference announcing his firing. Mike Ditka did in 1993 (“This too shall pass.”). Dave Wannstedt did in 1998. And Dick Jauron did in 2003. Lovie Smith in 2012 and Marc Trestman in 2014 did not.

Wanny’s exit was particularly dignified and classy.

“I’m not going to stand up here and make excuses,” Wannstedt said after going 40-56 with one playoff berth is six seasons. “It’s a tough job, a tough city . . . but I really mean this: This is a bend in the road. It’s not the end of the road for me.”

3.Hope for the Bears? The top five seeds in the NFC playoff bracket were not in the playoffs last season. In fact, the Eagles (7-9/13-2), Vikings (8-8/12-3), Rams (4-12/11-4), Saints (7-9/11-4) and Panthers (6-10/11-4) were a combined 32-48 (.400) last season.

In fact, even the team that lost to the Browns in Week 14 last year — the Chargers — are still in the playoff hunt in the AFC at 8-7 heading into Week 17.

4.Fun fact: With the Rams and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer clinching the NFC West on Sunday, the Phil Emery-era Bears hierarchy has won 13 titles since being fired by the Bears. They are:

GM Phil Emery — NFC championship, NFC South (scout with the Falcons).

Coach Marc Trestman — Grey Cup, CFL East (coach of the Argonauts).

Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker — NCAA title, SEC, SEC West (secondary coach at Alabama); SEC, SEC East (defensive coordinator at Georgia).

Special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis — Super Bowl 50, AFC championship, AFC West (special-teams coordinator with the Broncos).

5.Cornerback Kyle Fuller looks like a must-sign player after he had six passes broken up against the Browns. Fuller has 22 pass breakups for the season, including 11 in the last four games.

“I’m very happy for Kyle,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said unprompted while discussing his own near interception against the Browns. “I like to talk for him because he doesn’t like to worry about all the extra stuff after the season. But his stock is growing, and I can’t be more happy for him. If he would have just caught some of the easy ones he had, he would have been up for Comeback Player of the Year.”

6.Vic Fangio is a bigger must-keep than Fuller. Even without five Week 1 starters, the Bears’ defense is finishing strong. Entering Monday, the Bears were eighth in total defense, eighth in rushing defense and eighth in passing defense. They were one of four defenses in the top 10 in rushing and passing — with the Broncos, Vikings and Steelers. The Bears also were fifth in sacks per pass play and first in fumble recoveries.

6a.By holding the Browns to 253 yards — 55 below their average of 308 yards — the Bears’ defense has held 11 of 14 opponents below their season average. That’s particularly impressive considering the Bears have played 10 teams that ranked in the top half of the NFL in total offense entering Monday — including the No. 1 Saints (15 yards below their season average against the Bears), No. 3 Eagles (plus-33), No. 4 Steelers (minus-102), No. 8 Vikings (minus-68), No. 9 Falcons (plus-5) and the Packers with Aaron Rodgers (minus-85).

7.Good to see tight end Zach Miller back at Soldier Field and joking with teammates in the locker room after a victory. Miller was a deserving winner of this year’s “Good Guy” award for professionalism with the media, but the Bears had other worthy candidates in a difficult season — including Amukamara, Akiem Hicks, Sam Acho and Mitch Unrein.

8.Another sign of the Bears’ lack of aggressiveness on offense: The eight-yard pass interference call that Kendall Wright drew against Browns rookie Jabril Peppers on the Bears’ first possession was only the second DPI call the Bears have drawn all season. The only other one was against the Bengals’ Kevin Minter on tight end Adam Shaheen on a third-and-one play at the Bengals’ 2-yard line.

The Bears’ two DPI calls drawn is tied with the Colts for the fewest in the league. And their nine yards gained on DPI calls is the fewest. The league average is 136.6 yards gained on DPI calls.

9.Josh McCown Ex-Bears Player of the Week: Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers had a sack, two fumble recoveries and two quarterback hits in a 22-19 victory over the Buccaneers.

Peppers, who will turn 38 in January, has 11 sacks this season — the most since he had 111/2 with the Bears in 2014. Peppers has 36 sacks in 53 games since the Bears released him in a salary-cap move in favor of Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston after the 2013 season.

10.Bear-ometer: 5-11 — at Vikings (L).

Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

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