Going to start this off with a brain teaser – How does a team make the playoffs twice in three years with the worst front office and seventh-worst coaching staff in the entire NFL? To find out, you might want to ask the Chicago Bears.
Despite making the playoffs two of the last three years, fielding All-Pros at every level of the defense, and drafting Justin Fields, ESPN has ranked the Chicago Bears front office dead last in the NFL.
My only question is – Has ESPN been covering a different Chicago Bears team than the one I’ve been watching for the past three seasons?
The way ESPN talks about the Bears, you would think they haven’t won a game since 2018 and don’t have a player worth talking about besides Khalil Mack who may as well be a “washed superstar” the likes of Demarcus Ware when he went to Denver.
The main concerns raised against the Bears in the article were: Limited cap flexibility, draft capital, and aging veterans. This combined with a need to provide Justin Fields with more help on the perimeter is apparently why the Bears’ future isn’t as bright as many fans seem to think.
Let’s start with limited cap flexibility. Even with all the contracts on the books, the Bears will have an estimated 50 million dollars in cap space next offseason. The only extensions they’ll need to worry about are Roquan Smith, David Montgomery, and potentially Allen Robinson if they decide to keep him around. So, with all that money available even after contract extensions, how would Ryan Pace not be able to get Fields more help on the perimeter?
With respect to draft capital, has Ryan Pace not shown the ability to identify high-quality starters in days two and three of the draft? In the two years following the Khalil Mack trade where he gave up two first-rounders, he has drafted David Montgomery, Jaylon Johnson, Cole Kmet, Darnell Mooney, and Kindle Vildor – all of whom have shown flashes and are slated to have big roles on a playoff-caliber roster very early into their young careers.
Lastly, ESPN completely missed the mark with their comments on the Chicago Bears’ “aging” defense. Yes, the cornerstones of the defense (Mack and Hicks) are “over 30” years old, but Mack is exactly 30 and Hicks is only 31. Last I checked, players are still capable of producing at a high level even after they turn 30.
Now I understand that the Robert Quinn contract was not Pace’s best move. Analysts and fans will look at the Robert Quinn contract as a reason to criticize Pace’s poor skills as a GM, but they forget Quinn was injured most of last season and that the Bears have an out from that contract next offseason if he continues to not perform.
Furthermore, the Chicago Bears have young talent beyond Eddie Jackson and Roquan Smith! Fans know Bilal Nichols, Eddie Goldman, Jaylon Johnson, and Kindle Vidlor make up a strong supporting cast to the two young stars which Pace will continue to bolster next offseason and upcoming drafts.
However, as a Bears fan, I am used to the disrespect hurled by ESPN towards the Bears’ front office. It’s the inconsistent standards used to make this ranking that irritated me to no end and really highlights the bias against Nagy, Pace, and the entire Bears organization.
Once again, I want to reiterate that the Bears’ front office was ranked dead last in this ranking. That’s worse than the Texans who have an angry Deshaun Watson, no first-rounder next year, and absolutely no direction. It’s worse than the Jaguars who got lucky that Trevor Lawrence fell in their lap but have no track record of building a team. It’s worse than Philadelphia who couldn’t support Wentz and ultimately ruined him. It’s worse than Dallas whose best player on defense is one that hasn’t even taken the field yet (Micah Parsons). It’s even worse than the Lions who traded for Jared Goff’s contract and passed on Justin Fields in the draft.
However, no team’s ranking highlighted ESPN’s contradictory standards more than their ranking of teams and front offices than their placement of San Francisco at sixth overall and 14th front office. The Niners front office gave up three first-rounders for Trey Lance – what draft capital are they going to have to build around him? They handed Trent Williams a massive contract so where’s the cap space to acquire talent in free agency – not to mention the impending Fred Warner and Nick Bosa extensions.
Chicago’s front office was heavily criticized for putting themselves in a cap-strapped situation that will prevent them from building around Fields. Yet, while the Bears did trade one future first to move up for Fields – they owe him and Teven Jenkins, their left tackle of the future (hopefully), a combined 27 million over the next four years. I’m unsure of how it gets any better than this, but apparently giving a 32 year old left tackle 20+ million a year and spending three first-rounders on a less experienced college QB than every other first-round signal-caller signifies the savvy of an elite NFL organization and front office.
Ultimately, I’m not trying to argue that Ryan Pace and co. are among the five or even 10 best front offices in the NFL – they have their fair share of issues. What I am trying to articulate is that given his cap situation this offseason, he got the biggest bang for his buck. Additionally, that he has a history of identifying talented players late in drafts who Nagy’s coaching staff has developed, and lastly, that there was absolutely no justification for them to be ranked dead last in a “futures” power ranking. Especially, by a network that was as high on Justin Fields as anyone out there.
So, to answer the brain teaser I started this off with – if a team truly does have the worst front office and 7th worst head coach in all of the NFL, that team would have been picking in the top five every season – not making it to the postseason two out of three years and adding a promising young QB to an already talented roster ready to win now.