Rozner: Chicago Bears' Pace the next Belichick or Emery?

  • Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace, at left with head coach John Fox, is either a genius or he will have a lot to answer for in the coming years after his 2017 draft.

    Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace, at left with head coach John Fox, is either a genius or he will have a lot to answer for in the coming years after his 2017 draft.

Updated 5/1/2017 8:44 PM

The staking out of positions after a Chicago Bears draft is as long a tradition as there is in Chicago sports.

This time, it's all about GM Ryan Pace.


He got his guy because he's aggressive, goes the one narrative, which equals genius and should be celebrated, even if the rest of the NFL thinks this was the wrong quarterback draft for such a move.

Theo Epstein is aggressive, too. He gets his guys. He makes good deals. He's won three titles.

Many think he's a genius.

But he doesn't give away assets and get played by organizations putting out false information.

So the opposite narrative suggests Pace is incompetent and should be fired for ruining the Bears and their 2017 season.

But this draft wasn't about 2017 for Pace.

When he got here, Pace said the Bears were close to winning, and he drafted and signed free agents in order to win quickly.

Except, not so much.

After building teams that won six games in 2015 -- after which he again said the Bears were close -- and three games in 2016, Pace has changed his story and now says there are no quick fixes.

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Most GMs who win three games are not as secure as to make offensive picks in a tremendous defensive draft.

Most GMs are not as secure as to make picks from schools no one has ever heard of.

Most GMs are not as secure as to draft projects when they have built a team that has as many needs as the Bears do.

But most GMs don't have the owner in his pocket, as Pace now does.

No, Pace isn't going to get fired any time soon for what he did in this draft.

In a few years, we'll know whether the draft was an A or an F. There won't be anything in between, because it's not just about the Bears' picks but also the good players they passed on.

Considering what Pace gave away, and considering the high-risk, high-reward selections, this will be strictly hero or goat kind of stuff.

But ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that Pace and owner George McCaskey decided on Mitch Trubisky a month ago, and McCaskeys like very much being thought of as football people and being part of football decisions.


And you don't light your hair on fire in the middle of a draft and reach as many times as Pace did without permission from the boss.

So we'll see, in time, how long McCaskey has patience for all of these new projects.

But from a purely football standpoint, Pace is on an island.

Jason La Canfora, a highly respected national football writer for CBS Sports, skewered the Bears, as did most of the national press.

La Canfora quoted an exec from a postseason team as saying, "We don't know what the (heck) they were doing. It's all anyone is talking about. … I don't know anyone who likes their draft. From the first pick on, we can't figure out what they were doing. Go back and look at how many small-school kids they took. People around the league are shocked."

And from an executive on another team: "Either the Bears know something no one else in the league knows or that draft just got a lot of people fired, only they don't know it yet."

Maybe Pace really does know something no one else knows. Maybe he's the smartest guy in the room. Maybe he's a football genius.

People made fun of Albert Einstein, too. They thought he was crazy. Turns out he knew things no one else knew.

It could be that Pace is that football smart and in a couple years will produce a Super Bowl team to the shock of NFL execs and writers.

At 42, Einstein won the Nobel Prize in physics. Pace will be 42 in a couple years.

The national media is crushing Pace, while the local media has lined up almost universally behind him.

Maybe he's the next Bill Belichick, or maybe he's the next Phil Emery.

The football world will wait and watch to see just what Pace knows about football.

In the meantime, feel free to stake out your position.

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.

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