Ryan Pace has done a tremendous job building the Chicago Bears up to where they are. Yet for all the good things the GM has done to this point, he isn’t without flaws. One could argue if he’d been better at certain positions to this point, the team might be further along than it is now. This isn’t entirely his fault.
It’s easy to forget that Pace is still the youngest GM in the NFL even going on five years. For all his intelligence and natural instinct for this job, he’s still learning from his past mistakes. That is why it’s rather fitting that the 2019 offseason is confronting him with arguably his greatest challenge.
Not just in terms of the limited resources he has, but also the key positions he must try to fill. It turns out that the biggest areas of need are also positions he has tended to struggle with in the past. Which positions are they? Here they are from average to terrible.
#4: Wide receiver
- Kevin White
- Daniel Braverman
- Anthony Miller
- Javon Wims
- Cameron Meredith
- Tanner Gentry
- Eddie Royal
- Deonte Thompson
- Kendall Wright
- Tre McBride
- Allen Robinson
- Taylor Gabriel
Pace hasn’t been terrible at wide receiver, but one can definitely say his work there has been a mixed bag to this point. Kevin White was an outright bust. Daniel Braverman did little. Anthony Miller looks like a stud (if he can stay healthy) and Javon Wims has yet to play meaningful regular season snaps. Cameron Meredith had a good 2016 season but saw his career practically ruined by a knee injury.
Free agency isn’t much different. Eddie Royal, Kendall Wright, and Tre McBride were disappointments. Deonte Thompson had a few nice catches and big special teams plays. Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel look like nice finds but there is one overarching criticism here.
The Bears haven’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since Pace took over.
#3: Tight end
Considering how much Pace seems to favor the tight end position, his report card to this point could best be called a C. Ben Braunecker and Daniel Brown became quality backups and special teams help. Trey Burton seemed like a nice utility player last season but never had the look of somebody defenses have to gameplan for.
Perhaps the two biggest disappointments were Dion Sims and Adam Shaheen. Sims signed a fairly strong deal in 2017 and never lived up to it. His blocking was average and his pass catching even worse. Shaheen has flashed his potential as a pass catcher but continues to suffer health setbacks and isn’t much of a blocker.
#2: Edge rusher
Trading for Khalil Mack doesn’t count here because it doesn’t require a ton of scouting. Everybody knew he was a superstar and the Bears paid a huge price to get him. When it comes to actually sifting through talent pools to find good pass rushers, Pace has had a much more difficult time of it.
He traded up two spots in the 1st round to grab Leonard Floyd. The Georgia product never had more than 6.5 sacks in a season at Georgia and came with concerns about where his thin frame could handle NFL physicality. He’s missed 10 games in three seasons and played half of 2018 in a hand cast. He has 15.5 sacks. Kylie Fitts and Isaiah Irving? One sack in three combined seasons.
Free agency? Not much better. Pernell McPhee came with concerns about knee problems and lived up to them. Sam Acho was a quality backup but never a starter. Aaron Lynch had some nice plays but only three sacks and missed time with injury. None of the rushers Pace has drafted or signed to date has produced at least nine sacks in a season since 2015.
There is literally nothing good that one can say about Pace’s moves to this point at kicker. He let Robbie Gould go after 2015. To be fair he did struggle that year and the move was understood. Yet the replacements chosen since then are a direct indictment on Pace. Connor Barth was an underwhelming addition from the start.
He’d already done nothing special during his time in Tampa Bay. Why did anybody think he could improve on that in Chicago? Predictably he shanked and hooked his way through two years before being let go. That is when Pace threw a lot of money at Cody Parkey.
The failure there wasn’t the production. Parkey was a former Pro Bowler who’d gone 21-of-23 on field goals for Miami the year before. What they’d failed to do was get a proper gauge of his psyche. It became apparent early on that he both lacked the mental toughness and the work ethic to thrive. Eleven missed kicks later, he was gone.