Rozner: Bears' Pace is what his record says he is
The Chicago Bears are young, the future is bright and the feeling around Halas Hall is one of tremendous excitement.
After dumping head coach John Fox, this was the message on Monday from GM Ryan Pace, the same message he delivered after the 2016 and 2015 seasons.
It was all so predictable.
If he's given enough years, he might end up being right someday, but so far Pace is 14-34 after the Bears won five games in 2017.
That is their record.
Pace can dress it up any way he wants, but that is their record. He can spin it until the cows come home, to borrow from Pace himself, but that is their record. He can talk about injuries, missed opportunities, Mitch Trubisky's progress and how Fox was responsible for Dowell Loggains, but that is their record.
He can talk endlessly about how much heavy lifting he's had to do and continue to blame Phil Emery, but there are only eight players left from the last regime, including Kyle Long, Charles Leno, Kyle Fuller, Christian Jones and Pat O'Donnell.
It's his team.
"We're looking for success right now," Pace said. "We need wins. That's going to define progress."
And then he discussed at length how much progress the Bears have made in three years.
Under normal circumstances firing a coach is a great way to start the clock on your own tenure, but instead Pace gets a contract extension and a free pass from ownership that no previous GM has received.
"He shows a clear vision," said team president Ted Phillips, "of how to put together a winning team."
No three-year stretch has been worse since 1975.
"This has taken longer than any of us has expected," said George McCaskey, while adding that he loves the structure that's in place.
This is not MLB, where five-year plans are acceptable. It's the NFL, where the brand of football is terrible and bad teams make the playoffs every year, turning around awful records quickly.
The Bears have not managed mediocrity.
Of the six teams that finished worse than the Bears in 2014 -- Emery's final season as GM -- four of those teams have since made the playoffs and all six have won nine or more games at least once. A fifth team won 10 games and missed the postseason tourney.
Of the eight teams that finished worse than the Bears in 2015, six have won at least nine games and two made the playoffs.
Of the three teams that finished worse than the Bears in 2016, one made the playoffs with 10 wins, one is Cleveland and one is San Francisco, which picked up Jimmy Garoppolo for a second-round draft pick and the 1-10 Niners won all five of Garoppolo's starts.
That includes the Robbie Gould game at Soldier Field on Dec. 3, when Garoppolo won his first start for San Francisco.
The point is it only takes a couple of good acquisitions each year to get a team into the postseason and make a run at the big prize. Pace, to this point, has not delivered enough playmakers.
It also takes a quarterback and maybe Pace has found one in Trubisky. Time will tell, though Trubisky did take steps backward at the end of the season.
And it was Pace's decision to wait three years to draft a quarterback. Some believe that was calculated to buy him more time as general manager.
If he's that smart and ownership is that forgiving, good for Pace. If that's really the case, he has played it brilliantly.
Pace hasn't been all bad. He has found some great athletes. The question is about whether he can build a football team, not just a group of athletes.
And to escape blame while it all falls on the head coach is one of the most surprising developments in Bears history.
Fox was fired because of the Bears' offense, but Pace offered no offensive line, no receivers and rookies and projects all over the field, including a quarterback who didn't know the entire playbook.
Bill Walsh would not have won with that group.
You need about six really good players to reach the postseason, the players who get you off the field on third down on defense, and those who keep you on the field on third down on offense.
In three years, Pace hasn't been able to find them, but now he has four more years to discover them.
He has cozied up to McCaskey and Phillips, made them feel important and secured a new contract through 2021.
Ryan Pace is a lot smarter than you think.
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