If Pace had his way, he wouldn't have to hold court like he did at Halas Hall on Tuesday morning for a 33-minute press conference on the state of his Bears. Pace isn't comfortable in the spotlight, and what he says in such settings doesn't always prove true. He prefers to work in the dark.
Just ask Mike Glennon, who after signing a three-year deal with Chicago in March 2017 received the public support of Pace that he would be the Bears' quarterback -- all while Pace was privately preparing to draft Mitchell Trubisky a month later. Glennon started just four games and was released a year later. Even then-coach John Fox wasn't briefed on Pace's plan to select Trubisky until the day of the draft.
On Tuesday, Pace offered strong rhetoric that backed the 25-year-old Trubisky as the Bears' starting quarterback entering his fourth season.
"Mitch is our starter," Pace said. "We believe in Mitch, and we believe in the progress that he's going to continue to make."
There was no benefit to disparaging Trubisky, whose struggles contributed mightily to the Bears having one of the worst offenses in the NFL this season. And despite Pace's vote of confidence, it's worth wondering whether Trubisky will indeed be the Bears' starting quarterback in 2020. A few comments from Pace hinted at Trubisky's future remaining murky.
The Bears haven't yet decided on Trubisky's fifth-year option for 2021, Pace said, a salary figure that's expected to check in at north of $24 million. That means Trubisky could could enter the 2020 season in the final year of his rookie contract.
Pace also indicated the Bears will seek replacements for backup quarterbacks Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray, whose inclusions on the roster over the last two seasons was more for their ability to serve as a sounding board for Trubisky than anything else.
"The quarterback room is critical," Pace said. "It's important for us. We're always going to try to make it better."
"The key is that evaluation process," McCaskey said. "It's going to be thorough. It's going to be forthright. It's going to be honest. And at times, it may be painful. But that's what we need to do to get better.
"We can't be afraid to point the finger at ourselves."
That starts with Pace, who invested his career and professional reputation in Trubisky as a franchise quarterback.
Pace structured the Bears to contend while Trubisky was on his team-friendly rookie contract, a move that opened the door for Chicago to sign star pass rusher Khalil Mack to a $141-million deal, a record for a defensive player. The Bears' window of contention didn't shut after an 8-8 season, as they still have quality talent on a roster that needs more from its quarterback.
While Pace vocally doubled down on Trubisky, his scouting process in the coming weeks will determine whether his words ring true or if a quarterback competition awaits. There will be a number of proven veteran quarterbacks available in free agency who could offer the Bears the stability they've lack with the inconsistent Trubisky.
The Bears may sign a veteran quarterback to challenge Trubisky while still hoping Trubisky earns his place as the starter.
"The dividends can pay off if it comes to fruition," Pace said. "Again, we've seen this before with young quarterbacks, the trials and tribulations they go through. It's part of it. Sometimes if you stick with it, you see it through, you're dedicated to the development of the process, that can be very beneficial to the organization long-term."
Trubisky posted a 40.0 QBR in 2019, the fourth-worst mark of any qualifying quarterback in the NFL. His completion percentage (63.2), touchdowns (17) and yards per attempt (6.1) all took drips from 2018, and the Bears were 29th in the NFL in scoring offense and total offense.
Pace tied himself to Trubisky in the 2017 draft, taking the unproven and more inexperienced quarterback prospect out of North Carolina over comparable alternatives in Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. It's a decision that will haunt those inside Halas Hall for years to come, though the Bears aren't willing to give up on Trubisky just yet.
The Bears are publicly supporting Trubisky heading into 2020, still believing he can be the long-term answer. But Pace's words will prove empty if he's working in the dark once again.
Because when it comes to the Bears and Trubisky, it's best to judge Pace by his actions rather than his words.