September 21, 2021

Hub Arkush: Ryan Pace didn’t offer much Wednesday to quell the doubts

Although he seems to enjoy being the general manager, Ryan Pace clearly is uncomfortable with being the voice of the Bears.

But he’s the boss when it comes to football operations and the product the Bears put on the field, and not talking to his fan base exacerbates the dilemma he and his staff, coaches and players find themselves in right now.

He’s running a returning playoff team that’s gone 28-20 over the past three seasons without a losing campaign, and yet a disturbingly significant portion of fans already have deemed them a disaster area, expects them to fail and wants him and his head coach on the next bus out of town.

With that as the background, Pace had what traditionally would be his final visit with the media this season Wednesday.

Although I wouldn’t say my cohorts gave him a terribly rough ride, it certainly wasn’t all sweetness and light either.

I think the place to start is at the end. The last question of a roughly 25-minute visit was something like, “What excites you most about your current roster?”

“We’ve added major competition throughout the team. This is one of the hardest cuts we’ve had,” Pace said. “When I go back to what I’m excited about, it starts with our coaching staff, really excited about the coaching staff.

“The talent we’ve naturally built throughout. I was just talking to scouts about that as we were looking at some of these guys we could claim. In the past, you look out there and we’re talking about claiming five or six guys.

“We weren’t in that position this year, and I think it’s because we’ve built up talent throughout our team, a lot of competition throughout our team.”

That answer presents a case of two very different realities.

This Bears’ roster isn’t nearly as weak as the raft of Pace and Matt Nagy haters want to paint it.

There are potential All-Pros on both sides of the ball, and they’ve added a ton of speed and athleticism on offense.

But they’ve also gotten a lot older, and it’s impossible not to be troubled by the fact that as of this writing not a single player they cut has been claimed by another team.

If the competition was that great, why doesn’t anybody else want those guys?

As to their biggest move since last season, instead of getting any credit at all for some fairly shrewd and reasonably priced maneuvering to acquire Justin Fields, Pace and Nagy continue to take a beating for refusing to play him before they believe he’s ready.

Why not play him right now, Ryan?

“Because we feel Andy’s (Dalton) in a good place, too,” Pace said. “It’d be different if we didn’t feel that way. There’s a lot of things with Andy – I know we’ve talked about it before – but his experience, he’s won a lot of games in this league; his decision-making; his intangibles; his leadership; all the things that he’s doing.

“There’s so many veteran players that have come up to me and have made comments about Andy Dalton and what he’s doing – in practices, in the locker room, in the huddle. We’re very confident in him and where he’s at. So there’s no need for us to rush Justin.”

It’s a time-tested and proven plan for developing a young quarterback for which Pace and Nagy continue to take far more heat than they get credit.

Whether it’s the right decision, of course, remains to be seen.

As unpleasant as much of what is in print, on the airwaves and in social media regarding Pace and his head coach is, they are not under the same heat from ownership.

But they are expected to make progress this season.

What might that look like to Pace?

“To me, it goes back to winning football games and getting in the playoffs and winning when we’re in the playoffs,” Pace said.

Fair enough. I’d say Pace just made his own bed. It should be interesting to see how much he enjoys sleeping in it.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is a Bears/NFL Insider for Shaw Media