It's been two months since the end of the Bears disappointing 2019 season, but the team's performance still stings for General Manager Ryan Pace.
"Every year we go in with expectations, and last year was hard for all of us," Pace said. "Our focus right now is to do everything we can with our staff, and our players, to ensure we don’t have that feeling again."
With that in mind, this week is a critical one for the organization. As the NFL Combine gets going, Pace and his staff will be looking closely at many of the prospects scheduled to be in Indianapolis. Before free agency and trading start, Pace hopes to add depth to the Bears, potentially at positions of need like wide receiver, tight end, and offensive line.
The team once again doesn't own a first round pick (you can thank the Khalil Mack trade for that), but that doesn't mean it can't identify some impact players in Indy.
"It’s strong draft," said Pace. "I think with us having two two’s (two second round picks), that’s impactful for us. We’re projecting to have eight picks total, but having two second round picks is impactful for us," the GM added.
On Tuesday, both Pace and Matt Nagy said they want there to be fierce competition at all positions on the Bears roster next season. That includes the quarterback position. But -- and it's a major but -- their faith in Mitch Trubisky as the starter hasn't wavered.
"We believe in him," Pace stated bluntly. "We believe in the player, we believe in the person, we believe in the trajectory that he’s on. We believe we need to be better around him, and that’s what this time of year is all about," he added.
While the Bears doubled-down on their commitment to Trubisky, they're not ready to pull the trigger on the 25 year-old's fifth-year option for 2021. It would reportedly cost the team around $24 million, but Pace says he'll wait until May's deadline to make his decision.
Trubisky had surgery on his non-throwing shoulder after last season ended, but Pace says it was a success and he should be ready for offseason training activities in the spring. Until OTA's start, Nagy says the goal for Trubisky is to master the Bears offense.
"He needs to know it better than me," the Bears head coach said. "And I think that’s the goal. He’ll tell you that that wasn’t the case last year. That’s not a slight on him, he’s in year two of it, but I want to make sure that’s where he gets to in the future."
Trubisky slogged through an up-and-down 2019 season that saw him throw 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, but Nagy believes his protege is ready to move forward.
"I do know Mitch is very hungry. He understands we want him to play better, he understands that we want to coach better," Nagy said. "Now, we cannot worry and dwell about what happened last year. If you do that, you get stuck in mud. We can’t do it. It’s a clean slate, and now we’ve got to get better for this year."
Whether it was Trubisky's inconsistencies, Nagy's play-calling or overall poor execution, the Bears offense never found its footing in 2019. Nagy says he and his new offensive coaches are hard at work trying to make sure that isn't repeated next season.
"We need to figure out offensively, 'what is our identity?'," the third-year head coach said. "And more specifically too, in the run game, we struggled there in the run game. So we need to figure out what our identity is, and that’s going to be an objective for us."
On-field workouts at the NFL Combine begin Thursday when quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends take the field. The annual event wraps-up on Sunday, March 1st.