With Bears head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace returning in 2021, they will be tasked with finding a way to pull the Bears out of NFL mediocrity.
The Bears are 42-54 during the regular season in the six seasons that Ryan Pace has been the GM.
[Read more: Bears will keep GM Ryan Pace, head coach Matt Nagy, per sources]
No matter what happens next, his tenure will always be marked by two prominent transactions: drafting quarterback Mitch Trubisky second overall in 2017 and trading for Pro Bowl outside linebacker Khalil Mack in 2018.
It’s impossible to separate Pace’s name from Trubisky’s. Pace made a bold move during the 2017 draft, trading three additional draft picks to move up from No. 3 overall to No. 2, to select his quarterback of the future. At the time, Pace was lauded for sticking to his guns and going all in on a quarterback. Doubts, though, remained about the quarterback in questions.
History has proved Pace probably made the wrong selection. He selected Trubisky over future NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes, who the Kansas City Chiefs selected 10th overall. For that reason alone, Bears fans will never let Pace forget the 2017 draft.
That being said, a GM must make hundreds of moves big and small over the course of a season. Pace’s tenure has been marked by ups and downs. He built one of the best defenses in recent Bears history, but he also failed to build a consistent offense. He returned the Bears to the postseason for the first time in eight years, and mustered a second playoff appearance in 2020, despite an 8-8 record.
Now he and Nagy will try to build the Bears out of their 8-8 purgatory. How did it get to this point? Here’s a look back on the Ryan Pace era so far:
[Hub Arkush: With the pandemic raging, is now the time to be firing, hiring top executives?]
Timeline of the Bears’ Ryan Pace era:
Dec. 29, 2014: The Bears fired general manager Phil Emery and head coach Marc Trestman following a 5-11 season in 2014. Emery’s tenure lasted three years and included the firing of Lovie Smith, the third-winningest coach in Bears history.
Jan. 8, 2015: The Bears hired 37-year-old Ryan Pace to lead the franchise as the next general manager. Pace had previously been the director of player personnel with the New Orleans Saints.
Jan 16, 2015: In collaboration with chairman George McCaskey, team president Ted Phillips and an outside consultant, Ernie Accorsi, Pace hired John Fox as the Bears’ 15th coach in team history. Fox sported an impressive resume with two Super Bowl appearances, one each as the coach of the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos.
[Remember when?: Hub Arkush: Bears, Pace go safe with Fox as coach]
April 30, 2015: In his first draft as GM, Pace selected receiver Kevin White with the No. 7 overall pick. Other picks that year included defensive tackle Eddie Goldman (second round) and safety Adrian Amos (fifth round).
Sept. 27, 2015: The Seahawks beat the Bears, 26-0, in one of the Bears’ worst offensive performances. The Bears punted on all 10 offensive possessions in the game and were shut out for the first time since 2002.
Jan 3, 2016: The Bears finished the 2015 season at 6-10.
Jan 9, 2016: The Miami Dolphins hired Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase as head coach. The Bears replace him with their QB coach, Dowell Loggains.
March 9, 2016: LongtimeBears running back Matt Forte signed with the New York Jets.
April 28, 2016: Pace drafted outside linebacker Leonard Floyd with the ninth overall pick. Other picks that year included center Cody Whitehair (second round) and running back Jordan Howard (fifth round).
Sept. 19, 2016: Quarterback Jay Cutler injured his thumb in a Week 2 game against the Eagles. He wound up missing 11 total games in 2016 because of a thumb injury and later a shoulder injury.
Jan. 1 2017: The Bears ended the season with a loss to the Vikings, marking four consecutive losses. They finished the 2016 season with a 3-13 record, their worst since the NFL moved to a 16-game schedule in 1978.
March 9, 2017: Pace and the Bears released Cutler after eight seasons with the team. The same day, the team reportedly agreed to a three-year contract with free agent quarterback Mike Glennon. Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery agreed to a contract with the Eagles.
April 27, 2017: Pace traded up from the third pick to the second – trading away three additional picks in the process – to select North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky second overall. The Chiefs later drafted Patrick Mahomes 10th overall and the Texans selected Dashaun Watson with the 12th pick. Other Bears draft picks that weekend included tight end Adam Shaheen (second round), safety Eddie Jackson (fourth round) and running back Tarik Cohen (fourth round).
Sept. 28, 2017: Glennon turned the ball over four times in a loss to the Packers, which dropped the Bears to 1-3. Fox named Trubisky the starting quarterback days later.
Dec. 3, 2017: The Bears lost to the 49ers for a fifth straight loss, which made them 3-9 on the season. They won two of their last four games to finish 5-11.
Jan. 1, 2018: Pace fired Fox after three losing seasons. Pace confirmed he would head the search for a new coach, unlike the previous hiring, which was heavily aided by McCaskey, Phillips and an outside advisor.
[Remember when?: Hub Arkush: Bears make right moves by firing John Fox, giving Ryan Pace extension]
Over the following days and weeks, the Bears interviewed a number of candidates for the head coaching job, including then-Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, then-Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, then-Eagles quarterback coach John DeFilippo, then-Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmer, then-Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Jan. 8, 2018: The Bears hired Nagy as the 16th head coach in team history.Nagy had high praise for Trubisky’s potential at quarterback. Nagy provided hope for a new offensive era of Bears football, with fans envisioning the type of offense the Chiefs and Eagles ran under Andy Reid.
[Remember when?: Chicago Bears hire Kansas City Chiefs’ Matt Nagy as next head coach]
April 26, 2018: Pace drafted Georgia inside linebacker Roquan Smith with the eighth overall pick. Other picks included lineman James Daniels (second round), receiver Anthony Miller (second round) and defensive tackle Bilal Nichols (fifth round).
Sept. 1, 2018: The Bears traded for outside linebacker Khalil Mack, adding a Pro Bowl pass rusher to an already solid defense. In the process, they gave up their first-round draft picks in 2019 and 2020. Mack agreed to a six-year, $141 million contract extension that made him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history.
[Remember when?: Bears expected to trade for Khalil Mack from Raiders]
Sept. 9, 2018: The Packers beat the Bears in Nagy’s first game as head coach, but the Bears defense arrived with an impressive performance against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Nagy paid homage to the Bears’ early history by lining up his offense in the T-formation on the first play of the game.
Sept. 30, 2018: Trubisky threw a career-high six touchdowns passes in a win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was the first time a Bears quarterback threw at least five touchdown passes since 1949.
Dec. 16, 2018: The Bears defeated the Packers at Soldier Field, clinching their first NFC North Division title since 2010.
Jan. 6, 2019: Kicker Cody Parkey missed a potential game-winning 43-yard field goal – the infamous double-doink – in a Wild Card Round playoff game at Soldier Field against the Eagles.
[Remember when? Bears’ defense comes up short in NFC wild-card game vs. Eagles]
Jan. 9, 2019: The Denver Broncos hired Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio as head coach. Two days later, the Bears hired former Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano to replace Fangio as defensive coordinator.
Feb. 2, 2019: Nagy earned the 2018 NFL Head Coach of the Year award.
March 24, 2019: Pace earned the 2018 NFL Executive of the Year award.
April 26, 2019: Without a first-round or second-round pick, the Bears selected running back David Montgomery with a third-round pick.
Sept. 5, 2019: The Bears and Packers kicked off the NFL’s 100th season on “Thursday Night Football” from Soldier Field. The Bears offense struggled in a 10-3 loss.
Sept. 29, 2019: Trubisky injured his shoulder against the Minnesota Vikings. With backup Chase Daniel in the game, the Bears held on for a win to improve to 3-1. They went on to lose the next four games, dropping them to 3-5 and severely hurting their playoff hopes.
Oct. 20, 2019: The Bears lost to the New Orleans Saints, even with Saints quarterback Drew Brees out with an injury. As offensive play caller, Nagy called only seven rushing attempts in the game, compared to 54 passing attempts. Days later, Nagy made headlines saying, “I’m not an idiot, I know we have to run more.”
Dec. 31, 2019: Nagy fired offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich and numerous other offensive assistant coaches following a disappointing 8-8 season.
Jan. 3, 2020: The Bears signed safety Eddie Jackson to a four-year, $58.4 million contract, which at the time made him the highest-paid safety in NFL history.
Jan. 13, 2020: The Bears hired Bill Lazor as offensive coordinator, hoping to reinvigorate Trubisky’s quarterback play and the Bears run game.
March 12, 2020: The Bears closed their facilities due to the emerging coronavirus pandemic. Other teams made the same decision around that time. The league later mandated all facilities close, throwing a curveball at the 2020 offseason.
March 31, 2020: Pace traded for former Super Bowl MVP quarterback Nick Foles. The Bears later announced plans to have Trubisky and Foles compete for the starting quarterback job during the 2020 training camp.
Sept. 4, 2020: Nagy named Trubisky starting quarterback after a training camp battle with Foles.
Sept. 27, 2020: Nagy pulled Trubisky in the second half in favor of Foles, who led the Bears to their second 17-point comeback in three weeks. Nagy later said Foles would be the starter moving forward.
Oct. 26, 2020: After a 5-1 start to the season, the Bears lost to the Los Angeles Rams on “Monday Night Football,” the first of what became six consecutive losses.
Nov. 16, 2020: Foles suffered a hip injury in a loss to the Vikings. Trubisky returned to the starting role in the Bears’ next game.
Dec. 6, 2020: The Bears blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead against the Detroit Lions, losing their sixth consecutive game. Some fans called for change after the debacle, but Pace and Nagy kept their jobs through the end of the season.
Jan. 3, 2021: The Bears lost to the Packers, 35-16, but still snuck into the playoffs as the No. 7 seed in the NFC thanks to some help from the Rams, who beat the Arizona Cardinals that day. It marked their second consecutive 8-8 regular season.
Jan. 10, 2021: Making their third playoff appearance in two seasons, the Bears lost to the New Orleans Saints, 21-9, in a Wild Card round playoff game.