I have been and continue to be a big supporter of Ryan Pace. I believe by the time his era ends, for better or worse, we will look back on the Pace era as one that returned the Bears to a relevant state.
That said, this entry is not aiming to be kind or optimistic. If you’re in a Bears Kool-Aid kind of mood, you may want to not read further, because today I am going to provide a glimpse into the major flaws of the Ryan Pace era.
The mantra that Pace brought to the team upon his hiring was that the Bears were looking to get younger, draft smarter, and rebuild the franchise organically through homegrown talent. The returns have been…interesting.
- 2015 – Kevin White, 1st round: He’s been available for maybe 5 games since he was drafted, suffered through multiple season-ending injuries, and when he is on the field has unimpressed to a troubling degree. He has the 2018 season to show whatever remaining value he has to offer in the NFL. GRADE: D-
- 2015 – Hroniss Grasu, 3rd round: Had lots of promise, but a knee injury derailed his career. When healthy, his play has been unimpressive. May not be a lock for the 2018 roster. GRADE: D
- 2015 – Jeremy Langford, 4th round: In opportunities provided by Matt Forte injuries, Langford appeared to be the heir apparent. Two-odd years later he’s barely able to stick onto a practice squad. GRADE: D-
- 2016 – Jonathan Bullard, 3rd round: Hailed as a steal, perhaps the coup of the 2016 draft, Pace was lauded for plucking up Bullard in the 3rd round. Bullard, unfortunately, has showed little to validate the promise, and often times disappears entirely for stretches unbecoming of an NFL-caliber athlete. He has the 2018 season to show if he’s going to do anything in this league. GRADE: C-
- 2016 – Deon Bush, 4th round: Barely keeps a roster spot for middling special teams play. When given an opportunity to start, was so uninspiring that the team not only signed a veteran (Demps, more on him later) but drafted Eddie Jackson, who appears primed to hold that position down for years in the wake of Bush’s useless NFL career. GRADE: F
- 2016 – Deiondre Hall, 4th round: Hall showed glimpses of promise, and with the length to play a hybrid safety/corner role, many hoped he’d continue to build on those flashes. Hall responded by barely making a dent in the season’s stat sheet and got arrested in the offseason. GRADE: F
- 2017 – Adam Shaheen, 2nd round: There’s still many miles to go for Shaheen, so being featured on this list may seem premature, but after a rookie season that barely featured a player taken in the second round, the team’s acquisitions of Trey Burton and Dion Sims, and the re-signing of Daniel Brown, it almost seems like the team is overcompensating in preparation for Shaheen’s inevitable bottoming out. I’d like to think Shaheen will blossom in 2018, but the smoke circling this fire is very troubling. GRADE: D+
- 2017 – Jordan Morgan, 5th round: Morgan couldn’t make it through the preseason without getting placed on injured reserve. If he peters out of the NFL, he would join Tayo Fabuluje and Daniel Braverman as Pace late-round draft picks that were unable to contribute at the NFL level in any regard. We’ll see if 2018 tells a different story, but I’m not holding my breath. GRADE: D
FREE AGENT ACQUISITIONS
The real rotten core of the Pace apple has been a disturbing inefficiency in regards to bringing in outside talent to supplement the roster. Pace’s affinity for 1-year deals (and contracts that are in essence 1-year deals) earns him some leeway for not buying into longer term mistakes that cripple the franchise, but it also has resulted in many, many poor returns on investments that give me a great deal of pause.
- 2015 – Pernell McPhee: The first major deal of the Pace era, McPhee came into Chicago toting some major concerns over an ailing knee injury. McPhee’s talents when healthy were on display, but the knee wasn’t healed before he came to Chicago, and wasn’t healed when he departed. Great leadership wasn’t in question during his tenure, but that leadership doesn’t mean a damn thing if you’re barking at your teammates on the sidelines with crutches under your arms. GRADE: D
- 2015 – Antrel Rolle: Was already long in the tooth at the time of his signing, and began the troubling trend of Pace acquisitions that prior to donning a Bears jersey had no major injury concerns, but once the navy was on their bodies, injuries become routine. Rolle contributed virtually nothing before finding his way to IR and being waived. GRADE: F
- 2015 – Eddie Royal: Another player who, like McPhee, showed some great skill when healthy, but who, like Rolle, suddenly found themselves injury-plagued upon becoming a Bear. Royal’s frustrating inability to be available on Sundays resulted in a completely pointless, mildly expensive roster spot. GRADE: D-
- 2015 – Ray McDonald: Red flags were everywhere for McDonald, as he was fresh off of a scandal that involved domestic violence, guns, and the police. After getting the blessing of Methusela, er, Virginia McCaskey, they signed McDonald to a contract. Days later he was arrested again for domestic violence-related drama, and the Bears promptly terminated the contract. Garbage in, garbage out, and apparently his talent was worth the headache. GRADE: F
- 2015 – Will Montgomery: What felt like a good investment to stabilize the offensive line, Montgomery’s aging knees had other ideas, and he become one of the first of many, many, many Bears to be placed on Injured Reserve during the Pace years. GRADE: D
- 2016 – Manny Ramirez: Joined Montgomery in the “Former Broncos Who Get Work With The Bears” club, but decided to retire a couple months into his contract. GRADE: F
- 2017 – Mike Glennon: Likely will go down as the worst acquisition in the Pace era. Paid an egregious amount on what was essentially a 1-year contract, but nobody’s really sure who the Bears were bidding against that necessitated that kind of commitment. Glennon’s performances through 4 games are among the worst of any quarterback in Bears history, and that’s saying something. GRADE: F-
- 2017 – Markus Wheaton: Signed to assuage those concerned about the Kevin White injuries and departure of Alshon Jeffery, Wheaton gave the Bears a whopping 3 catches for 51 yards. Wheaton, like Royal before him, was routinely inactive due to injury. GRADE: F
- 2017 – Quintin Demps: Another old safety that provided nothing whatsoever. In the few games he was healthy, Demps was less than a non-factor. A busted arm put him on IR, and the team promptly moved on this offseason. GRADE: F
- 2017 – Marcus Cooper: Signed to a deal that would indicate a bright future and an upward trend, Cooper forgot how to play football not long after. Back injuries and a knack for getting soundly beaten in coverage derailed his career. He rejoins the Bears in 2018 on a much different contract, and here’s hoping the team goes into the season wise enough not to be counting on Cooper for anything at all. GRADE: F
Why didn’t Pace get something in exchange for Alshon Jeffery?
Why didn’t Pace tender Cameron Meredith for a draft pick?
Why did Pace feel like Matt Slauson and Josh Sitton weren’t worth keeping?
Does he even know? Because I certainly don’t.