Rozner: For Bears' Pace, boring draft is healthy

  • Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace has had a history of making some wonky picks during the NFL draft. But this year -- for at least the early rounds -- he kept it boring and simple, and that's exactly what he needed to do.

      Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace has had a history of making some wonky picks during the NFL draft. But this year -- for at least the early rounds -- he kept it boring and simple, and that's exactly what he needed to do. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 4/29/2018 6:06 PM

Give Ryan Pace credit.

No, seriously. Give the man his due.

 

The Bears GM has spent his first three years in Chicago making draft selections and signing free agents as if he knew something no one else did, as if he needed to prove he were the smartest man in a room filled with NFL execs who just didn't get it.

So he reached for picks, looked for projects and found players from schools no one had heard of, and then asked his head coach and offensive coordinator to field players who didn't belong on the field, who couldn't learn the playbook, who couldn't execute the simplest of plays.

And all along the way, everyone told Pace how great he was, from the media to his ownership to all who worked for him.

Under circumstances like that, it's difficult to see mistakes, not when you're being told constantly that you're perfect just the way you are, when there is no effort to speak truth to power.

But Pace has apparently learned from some of the disasters of the last three years and the 2018 draft was a good one for the Bears.

Perhaps with strong input from someone like Matt Nagy, Pace -- for three rounds, at least -- took the best on the board, drafted for need and took players who could help the team immediately, players who belong on an NFL field.

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And for this he deserves praise.

It doesn't excuse the nonsense of the past, not in a league where you only need a few playmakers to reach the postseason, and a handful to reach the big dance.

That's how bad the NFL is these days, and that's how quickly you can turn it around.

Of the six teams that finished worse than the Bears in 2014 -- just before Pace arrived -- four have since made the playoffs and all six have won 9 or more games at least once.

A fifth team won 10 games, but missed the postseason.

Of the eight teams that were worse than the Bears in 2015, six have won at least 9 games and two have 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 stole Jimmy Garoppolo for a second-round pick and the 1-10 Niners proceeded to win each of Garoppolo's 5 starts in 2017 -- including the Robbie Gould game at Soldier Field in December when Garoppolo won his first start for the Niners.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The point is it really doesn't take much to turn it around in a bad league.

You have to have a QB and an offensive line, but after that it's pretty much one big playmaker at each level of the offense or defense, players who can get you off the field on third down on defense, and players who can keep you on the field on third down on offense.

And you don't have to reach for projects, play the hero or surprise everyone in order to do that.

This time, Pace didn't. He took the gifts that were offered and accepted them with thanks, eschewing the temptation to try something wacky.

This is no small matter, defying all within you that screams for something exciting, when the obvious is so very boring.

But Pace has done this and for that he should be congratulated. He had a good draft and has put the Bears in a position to compete for a division title in 2018.

That will sound crazy to some who still think this is the NFL of 20 or 30 years ago.

It is not.

The NFL of today requires little more than a pass rusher who disrupts the opposition offense, and a quarterback who protects the football and can make the occasional third down play.

Do that and you're in the playoffs. Get some turnovers and you go far. Make a few big plays and you get to collect a ring.

It's really not that complicated.

In the past, Pace made it more complex than it was, but this weekend he made some good moves.

It's not easy to change and Pace deserves credit for doing precisely that.

brozner@dailyherald.com

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

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