Entering his third year as the General Manager of the Chicago Bears, Ryan Pace has every reason in the world to try to play things conservatively as he continues to build a roster that was left in shambles by the previous regime.
Instead, he threw the dice and made a gamble that will define his legacy in Chicago.
That gamble came in the form of trading up one spot in Thursday’s NFL Draft to select quarterback Mitchell Trubisky out of the University of North Carolina. Trubisky, who has started all of 13 games at the collegiate level, has a big arm and an accurate touch, but no one expected the Bears of all teams to jump up one spot, at the cost of four draft picks, to grab him.
Those picks could have certainly been used to add talent at the myriad of positions that the Bears still find themselves deficient in, but Pace identified his guy early in the process, and he did what he deemed necessary to get him.
“You’re kind of feeling the situation out and I didn’t want to sit on our hands and have some team jump us and it not work out when we were this close within reach of a player that we all really valued,” he told media at Halas Hall.
Whether there were actually teams involved in the sweepstakes for the second pick is a fact that will never be conclusively known by any other person than San Francisco 49’ers G.M. John Lynch, who ended up parlaying part of the package the Bears sent him to get back into the first round and take Reuben Foster with the 31st overall pick.
That fact, along with the sheer volume of picks given up for a quarterback with such little experience, prompted many in Chicago to wonder if Pace had gone off the deep end, but the reality of the situation is that the G.M. of the Bears is tying his fate to that of a quarterback that has never run an NFL style offense.
Even with that in mind, Pace thinks that Trubisky has what it takes to overcome the obstacles and prove the doubters wrong.
“His ability to process and see the whole field jumps out right away,” he said. “(He’s) very good on third-down, very good completion percentage with pressure in his face. Just a lot of traits that he has that translate well to the NFL game.”
Pace had better hope that Trubisky’s game does translate, as he ran a system that North Carolina that rarely had him line up under center. That transition has always proven to be a tricky one for quarterbacks to master once they get to the NFL, but Pace has at least bought himself a year of development time for his quarterback thanks to his signing of Mike Glennon at the opening of free agency.
“There is no quarterback competition when Mitch gets here. Glennon is our starting quarterback,” Pace said. “We’ll focus on Mitch’s development and Mike Glennon winning games for the Chicago Bears.”
Even with that safety net in place, Pace is still walking a high-wire with this move. A team in rebuilding mode giving up draft picks, which essentially are like lottery tickets for talent-starved clubs, is a massive deal, and if it ends up blowing up in his face, then his time in Chicago will most definitely come to an end, and his reputation as an executive could be shot along with it.
In the end, Trubisky will either be the millstone around Pace’s neck, sinking his legacy to the depths of Lake Michigan, or he’ll be the fuel that powers his meteoric rise to the pantheon of executives like Jerry Krause and Theo Epstein that have managed to win in one of the country’s most demanding sports cities.