(670 The Score) Bears general manager Ryan Pace is obligated to speak this time of year in conjunction with the NFL Combine, required by league policy to address his team's future ahead of a pivotal point in the offseason.
With contracts soon to sign and prospects to scout, Pace would rather be doing anything else than speaking publicly about his offseason plans. Ever the poker player each offseason, Pace knows not to tip his hand and enters these media sessions with the goal of being vague as can be. He accomplished that once again Tuesday in repeatedly declining to reveal what the Bears would do at quarterback.
"Really right now for us, everything is on the table in regard to the quarterback situation," Pace said in a media session ordinarily conducted at the NFL Combine.
Pace couldn't speak about the trade possibilities involving Texans star quarterback Deshaun Watson or Seahawks star quarterback Russell Wilson. He wouldn't delve into the chances of trading up in the first round to select a quarterback. He was even mum on the potential return of Mitchell Trubisky.
"Everything is on the table with all the quarterbacks," Pace said when asked about Trubisky.
What is clear with these Bears is they need to win in 2021 or a potential house cleaning that likely includes Pace and coach Matt Nagy will follow. For an organization that's coming off back-to-back 8-8 regular seasons, a turnaround starts at quarterback.
The Bears missed in 2017 by drafting Trubisky at No. 2 overall ahead of Watson and Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes, but Pace has been granted another opportunity to get the quarterback position right. He recognizes the potential in an unprecedented quarterback carousel this offseason. He has a chance to save his job in Chicago and alter the Bears' course as a franchise.
While Pace can't discuss players under contract elsewhere, he indicated the Bears would wait out this carousel. That starts with potentially bidding for Watson and Wilson, both of whom could be moved this offseason after expressing unhappiness with their current teams. Just as Pace worked stealth operations in moving up in the draft for Trubisky and trading for star edge rusher Khalil Mack in 2018, he could be quietly preparing for another aggressive deal.
While Pace's words didn't suggest a major move at quarterback is coming, his past does. The Bears could be positioning themselves to acquire a star.
“We can’t be reckless," Pace said, choosing his words carefully. "We’re always going to have our limits with every trade and that’s going to be individual based on the position and the player you’re talking about, of course. And I think the timeline it just dictates, you obviously have a lot of different things planned out with free agency and the draft and the last thing you want to do is put yourself or the team in a bad position where you get kind of stuck.
"It just depends. It depends on the opportunity. It’s not like we go into it and say we’re going to take a big swing just to make headlines and make a splash. It depends on what’s presented to us. It could go a number of different ways.
"We got to be able to pivot and adjust along the way to some things that we might not expect."
In recent weeks, the Bears had interest in acquiring quarterback Carson Wentz, who instead will be dealt from the Eagles to the Colts. Ultimately, Pace never made a formal offer and backed out. Had he made that deal, the Bears would've been -- to use his word -- "stuck" at quarterback with Watson and Wilson still in play.
That "pivot" wouldn't be for a star like Watson or Wilson. Instead, it could be a quarterback like Sam Darnold (Jets), Teddy Bridgewater (Panthers) or Derek Carr (Raiders), who each could be moved by their respective teams and who each could represent an upgrade for the Bears at quarterback.
Like Pace, Nagy left open the possibility that Trubisky could return for a fifth season and second contract in Chicago. But unless the Bears tender him the franchise tag, Trubisky is free to sign anywhere else. A change of scenery may be his preferred route after four difficult seasons in Chicago.
Nagy also referenced veteran quarterback Nick Foles, who's under contract with the Bears for two more seasons. While his struggles in 2020 came in part due to poor performance from some of the offensive personnel he was surrounded by, Foles filling the starting role in 2021 wouldn't mark an upgrade.
For his part, Nagy attempted to walk back comments he made in an NFL.com interview in which he suggested the Bears were a quarterback away from being a legitimate contender. Nagy made those comments ahead of the Super Bowl in February, pointing to how teams could be eager to copy the Buccaneers' bold move for Tom Brady that ultimately led them to a championship.
"There’s a lot of different what-ifs," Nagy said Tuesday. "And there’s a lot of different, 'OK, here we are, this is where we’re at. If it’s Quarterback X, Y or Z, including the guys that we discussed with Mitchell and Nick, what do we do to get this thing better?' In the end, we’ve got to score more points. We’ve got to score more touchdowns, regardless of anything. It’s not just one position. It’s not. It’s everywhere."
In retaining Pace for a seventh season with the Bears and Nagy for a fourth, chairman George McCaskey said he needs to see "progress" in 2021. That set a standard of a winning season and playoff run following an 8-8 campaign that ended on wild-card weekend.
Pace and Nagy watched how the Buccaneers made a bold quarterback move by signing Brady and then winning a Super Bowl. The Bears recognize the pressure to win and how a proven quarterback could elevate them to a championship-caliber level.
As always, judge Pace by his actions and not his words. The Bears' table is set with opportunity.
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.