(670 The Score) Hey, totally random question: Remember when Bears president Ted Phillips called general manager Ryan Pace's job security “not really pertinent” to the conversation about the team’s immediate future?
Go ahead and call that what it is: a somewhat successful and weird attempt to buy time. Ownership is notoriously patient – to a fault some say, quite loudly on the internet – and Pace is by all accounts a Good Dude. The emphasis and value placed on personal relationships over seemingly all else may occasionally (lol) frustrate impatient fans, but it’s how the Bears operate. They are, after all, a family business.
But still, it’s not like Pace has tenure. At some point -- and my guess is probably pretty soon -- concrete decisions are going to be made about his future at Halas Hall. The good news for those aforementioned occasionally frustrated Bears fans is that in two weeks (I know, we’re almost there, just hold on), we may finally get a glimpse of where everything currently stands. Pace’s move in the first-round of the NFL Draft on April 29 will be telling, for a couple different reasons.
First, consider Andy Dalton. You were going to have to eventually, so let’s just do it now. The Bears gave Dalton a $10-million contract and public guarantees that he’d be the undisputed starting quarterback. No one even forced them to! They just went and did it on their own. And while it’s true that he’s currently the best quarterback on the roster, as people far more dialed in than I have suggested, it’s hard to imagine Pace and coach Matt Nagy hitching their wagon to Dalton with their jobs on the line. What we know about Pace’s recent pursuit of Seahawks star quarterback Russell Wilson tells us that Pace feels his seat warming, at least a little bit. Wilson’s probably not walking into Halas anytime soon (unless???), but you’d think – or at least hope – that Pace’s grand scheme doesn’t involve immediately pivoting to Dalton after not being able to land one of the league’s five best quarterbacks. I’m not sure how I’d describe that plan – but I certainly wouldn’t call it desperate.
Which brings us to Pace’s history of evaluating quarterbacks. How fun is this?! Picking at No. 20 overall is definitely not going to land the Bears one of the premier quarterbacks in this draft class, especially now that Mac Jones is apparently the second coming of Tom Brady. In a sort of backwards way, this almost helps Pace: It’s a lot easier to take a tackle or trade back – two moves that would normally be more difficult to justify on a win-now mandate and with needs at quarterback – when there’s no one still on the board only five to seven picks away. But allow yourself to feel hope for exactly 20 seconds and imagine that Pace still trades up. The Dolphins set the market for just how costly it’d be to get there, but what are future firsts, really, to a general manager on the hot seat? Maybe ownership isn’t wild about letting Pace leverage future assets that they don’t intend to let him control, but Bears fans are perhaps the last people on earth who need to be explained the sort of runway that drafting an exciting young quarterback prospect in the first round can get you in Chicago.
A secret contract extension for Pace has been the juiciest bit of Bears speculation this offseason, although at that end-of-season press conference, chairman George McCaskey did explicitly say that neither Pace or Nagy had received one. Remember, this is the same team that reminded you two dozen times how often it collaborates, so there’s no way people internally are in the dark. Ownership knows, Pace knows and in a couple of weeks, you may know too.
Cam Ellis is a writer for 670 The Score and Audacy Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KingsleyEllis.