The 2018 offseason was a master stroke for Ryan Pace. The Chicago Bears GM was on point from start to finish. He hired a new head coach in Matt Nagy who immediately galvanized the team towards a 12-4 record. He signed key free agents like Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Trey Burton. Then he drafted Roquan Smith, James Daniels and Anthony Miller. All future starters. Oh, and he also traded for Khalil Mack.
These moves were instrumental in transforming the Bears into a playoff team. They won the division for the first time since 2010, beating the Green Bay Packers to clinch it. The defense was #1 in the league in almost every notable stat category. They even managed to get a Pro Bowl out of young quarterback Mitch Trubisky. That alone should’ve impressed pundits about what Pace had done.
Yet in the end, it wasn’t enough. During the NFL Honors ceremony awarding the top league awards for 2018, Pace was narrowly defeated by Indianapolis Colts GM Chris Ballard for the Executive of the Year award. Bears fans were indignant. They argued Ballard didn’t face near the number of challenges Pace had.
However, angry as they may have been, new data reveals it’s probably best that the young GM didn’t win the award.
Ryan Pace would’ve faced a possible curse had he won
Josh Hermsmeyer of FiveThirtyEight did some research on past general managers who have won the Executive of the Year honor. He came to a startling realization. One that will remind football fans that it might be best not to tempt the football gods.
“Shockingly, this honor has become the front office equivalent of the Madden curse. Seven of the past 10 award winners have been fired. Of the three winners who still have jobs, one — Jerry Jones — is an owner who is unlikely to fire himself, and the other two are the most recent recipients: Howie Roseman in 2017 and Chris Ballard in 2018.”
|2018||Chris Ballard||Indianapolis Colts||Active|
|2017||Howie Roseman||Philadelphia Eagles||Active|
|2016||Reggie McKenzie||Oakland Raiders||Fired Dec. 10, 2018|
|2015||Mike Maccagnan||New York Jets||Fired May 15, 2019|
|2014||Jerry Jones||Dallas Cowboys||Owner|
|2013||John Dorsey||Kansas City Chiefs||Fired June 22, 2017|
|2012||Ryan Grigson||Indianapolis Colts||Fired Jan. 21, 2017|
|2011||Trent Baalke||San Francisco 49ers||Fired Jan. 1, 2016|
|2010||Scott Pioli||Kansas City Chiefs||Fired Jan. 4, 2013|
|2009||Bill Polian||Indianapolis Colts||Fired Jan. 3 2012|
The basic idea behind this research is that any GM who has claimed the award is often gone within a period of five years. The only one who has managed to buck that curse is Mickey Loomis of the New Orleans Saints. He won it back in 2006 and remains in firm control of the franchise to this day. The fact he’s Pace’s mentor is a welcoming assurance.
Still, it’s probably best not to tempt fate.