Rozner: Pace shows guts with Bears' bold move in dealing for Mack
As they shook their heads in disbelief, Bears fans were not alone in NFL circles when General Manager Ryan Pace sat on his hat and watched as the Patriots shopped quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
The local product was NFL ready and would have filled a desperate need for the Bears, but Pace instead gave up three draft picks and moved up a single spot to grab Mitch Trubisky.
Making matters even more embarrassing, the Rolling Meadows High School grad handed it to the Bears at Soldier Field last December, Garoppolo and Robbie Gould enjoying very much their trip to Chicago in front of family and friends.
It was not a good look for Pace and the 3-8 Bears, losing to the 1-10 Niners, but it was just another reminder of how little progress the Bears had made in their rebuild.
After about seven months in the Bears' offense, Trubisky was very much a work in progress, completely understandable for a rookie with little college experience.
The contrast, however, was startling. After only a month in the Niners' offense and making his first start for San Francisco, Garoppolo -- already an NFL veteran -- looked entirely the part and very much in command.
Until Friday night, it was not within Pace to admit mistakes or to make the kind of deal necessary to get a player like Garoppolo, a player drafted and developed by another team first, but capable of changing the franchise.
His story was always the same. The Bears have everything they need in house. Fired up about every draft pick. Fired up about every free agent signing. Fired up about every coach or assistant coach they hire. Fired up about the future.
Fired up, period.
But a week away from starting the 2018 season, the Bears were still lacking impact players, the special ones that change the look of the offense or defense by simply jogging onto the field.
In four years of drafts and free agency, Pace had failed to find enough game-changers in a bad league where it only takes about three serious players on each side of the ball to make the playoffs.
It wasn't good enough.
What's significant now is by acquiring Khalil Mack, Pace has admitted to that failure by trading for perhaps the best pure pass rusher in the NFL.
It's nearly the equivalent of trading for an established NFL quarterback. That is how dramatically Mack could change the look of the Bears' defense, that is how much he could change the look of their season.
Of course, there is risk. If Mack is not in shape after sitting out camp, there is concern about injury or a slow start, but with any player in a brutal game there is risk of injury.
There is also risk with expensive, long-term deals if not structured perfectly.
In NFL terms, four years is a long rebuild. The Bears should be competing for a Super Bowl, not talking about a .500 season as if it would be a super accomplishment.
Pace deserves credit now for waking up to that fact, even if he doesn't acknowledge it publicly. He displayed huge guts by giving up precious draft picks and is acknowledging with this trade that he has not done enough in the draft to make up ground in the NFC.
While Trubisky is on his rookie deal, the Bears have a window in which to spend money, and if he's as good as Pace believes he is, Trubisky will eventually get huge dollars and make it difficult to add a player like Mack.
Now is the right time. Mack is the right player. And Pace did the right thing.
Bears ownership, which famously traded Wilber Marshall under similar circumstances -- rather than pay him what he was worth -- also deserves praise.
The McCaskeys don't generally do what the Bears just did, so credit them as well for going all in right now.
If in the long run this doesn't work out for the Bears, Pace and the McCaskeys will get pounded for it, so risk aversion is usually the way the franchise operates.
But sometimes you have to take chances and this is a risk absolutely worth taking. The reward could be huge and immediate.
In a league that is so riddled with mediocrity, this is a great chance to take.
In a league where the difference between 6-10 and 10-6 is a single player on each side of the ball, this was an opportunity to flip the record.
In a league that is so bad, where you can change your fortunes overnight, Ryan Pace finally recognized he hasn't been good enough as a talent evaluator, and jumped on the chance to take advantage of someone else's ability to do just that.
Give the man credit. This time he deserves it.