PACE WON’T GET A PASS

It doesn’t seem fair, but GM will be on hot seat de­spite all the up­heaval caused by coron­avirus

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - MARK POTASH BEARS BEAT mpotash@sun­times.com | @MarkPo­tash

Bears gen­eral man­ager Ryan Pace was a pro per­son­nel scout for the Saints when they fired coach Jim Haslett af­ter a 3-13 sea­son marred by the im­pact of Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina. So he knows there’s a limit to ex­ten­u­at­ing cir­cum­stances in the NFL, if there are any at all.

But al­ready we can see that mak­ing fair judg­ments on any­one — play­ers, coaches and GMs in­cluded — will be dif­fi­cult in a sea­son al­tered by COVID-19 pan­demic re­stric­tions. There has been vir­tu­ally no face-to-face con­tact be­tween team per­son­nel and play­ers in the off­sea­son and no on-field work­outs and prac­tices. Train­ing camp al­ready has been af­fected. There will be no pre­sea­son games. Key play­ers are opt­ing out — in­clud­ing Bears nose tackle Ed­die Gold­man. There are likely to be more in­juries and ab­sences if reg­u­larsea­son games even­tu­ally are played. It’ll still be foot­ball, but com­pared to a nor­mal sea­son,

it might be a mess.

Those cir­cum­stances make it par­tic­u­larly tough on Pace and coach Matt Nagy, who are count­ing on an of­fen­sive over­haul to re­ju­ve­nate the Bears’ once-promis­ing prospects. But Nick Foles has had zero time on the field to learn the nu­ances of Nagy’s of­fense and get ac­cli­mated with new re­ceivers and team­mates. Rookie tight end Cole Kmet — a big part of the re­build in a key po­si­tion in Nagy’s of­fense — spent most of a crit­i­cal off­sea­son learn­ing the Bears’ of­fense on Zoom.

New of­fen­sive line coach Juan Castillo — who claims his suc­cess is due to get­ting his play­ers to out­work ev­ery­body else — has yet to even be on the field with his play­ers to in­stall the basics. The same goes for new of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Bill La­zor, new quar­ter­backs coach John DeFilippo and new tight ends coach Clancy Barone. And Mitch Tru­bisky — a self-de­scribed reps guy now fight­ing for his job — can’t get reps.

It’s a tough year to be on the hot seat, but the NFL hot seat waits for no man. If both quar­ter­backs fal­ter un­der dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances, the de­fense — al­ready im­pacted by Gold­man’s ab­sence — has a key in­jury or two and the Bears go into 2021 with a high draft pick and a need for a new fran­chise quar­ter­back, is Pace go­ing to get the op­por­tu­nity to draft him? In that sce­nario, his record of quar­ter­back eval­u­a­tion would em­phat­i­cally say no.

That’s get­ting a lit­tle ahead of our­selves, no doubt — and it’s an ex­treme ex­am­ple. But the is­sue of Pace’s fu­ture (and Nagy’s, for that mat­ter) was stoked again this week when Pace traded tight end Adam Sha­heen to the Dol­phins — turn­ing a se­cond-round pick into a sev­enth-round pick. (It could be­come a sixth-round pick, but only if the Dol­phins get more out of Sha­heen than the Bears did — which would be yet another in­dict­ment.) Pace ac­tu­ally has done a good job of ac­knowl­edg­ing mis­takes and un­der­achiev­ers and mov­ing on — Mike Glen­non, Kevin White, Cody Parkey, Trey Bur­ton, Leonard Floyd, Sha­heen and Tru­bisky. But that list is too long and in­cludes too many first-round picks and high­priced free agents. He has had his share of hits — Akiem Hicks, Ed­die Jack­son, Khalil Mack, Gold­man, Danny Tre­vathan and oth­ers. But the quar­ter­back mi­s­e­val­u­a­tions tilt his ledger to the neg­a­tive. The heat is on, or should be.

Even dur­ing a pan­demic sea­son? Prob­a­bly. That’s life in the NFL. When Bears de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Chuck Pagano was the coach of the Colts, he was fired af­ter a 4-12 sea­son with­out in­jured quar­ter­back An­drew Luck. Then again, Pagano got the op­por­tu­nity to coach the Colts when Jim Cald­well was fired af­ter the Colts went 2-14 with­out an in­jured Pey­ton Man­ning. It’s a tough busi­ness. And this is a tough year to be on the hot seat. But there are no mul­li­gans in the NFL.

NOTE: The Bears ac­ti­vated run­ning back Ar­tavis Pierce from the re­serve/COVID-19 list Sun­day. He was put on the list last week be­cause he either tested pos­i­tive or had been near some­one who did. Fel­low run­ning back Napoleon Maxwell was waived.

NAM Y. HUH/AP

The coron­avirus pan­demic has made mat­ters even more com­pli­cated for Bears gen­eral man­ager Ryan Pace this sea­son.

ELSA/GETTY IM­AGES

The se­lec­tion of Mitch Tru­bisky with the se­cond pick of the 2017 draft con­tin­ues to haunt Ryan Pace.

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