Facts trump emotion in decision to fire Ryan Pace

When Bears chairman George McCaskey fired general manager Ryan Pace on Monday, he gave in to the facts of the case — as much as it probably pained him.

The family respects Pace, whom they hired in 2015. They’ve trusted him — to trade up to draft a quarterback twice, and to lead a $100 million remodeling of Halas Hall. But none of the personal affection they have for him outweighs what the franchise has accomplished under his watch.

The Bears have a .425 winning percentage since hiring Pace in 2015. Only seven teams have a worse record: Washington plus the 49ers, Lions, Giants, Jets, Browns and Jaguars.

In that same span, the Bears have played two playoff games. Only six teams — the Bengals, Dolphins, Giants, Raiders, Lions and Jets — have played in fewer.

Only four teams have scored fewer points since the start of 2015.

A 6-11 record in a win-or-else season was the last straw.

The first was Pace’s decision to trade up one spot to trade North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky in 2017. In doing so, he passed on future NFL MVP and Super Bowl winner Patrick Mahomes and Texans star Deshaun Watson, who’s since been the center of a sex scandal.

McCaskey’s decision to stick with Pace and coach Matt Nagy last year gave the GM a chance to do something similar. To move up from No. 20 to No. 11, Pace traded the Giants his first-round pick in 2021 and 2022, among other things, and drafted Ohio State quarterback Ryan Pace.

The argument for Pace to stay went as follows: he was bold enough to trade up to draft Justin Fields in April and shouldn’t be punished for making a decision that he — and his bosses — knew wouldn’t yield immediate results. Fields is the most talented college quarterback the franchise has ever drafted and represents the best chance the Bears have had since they drafted Jay Cutler of fixing a century-long passer problem.

The counter-argument is this: what evidence do the Bears have that Fields can be that player? He went 2-8 in 10 starts this season. His most promising moment of the season came in the fourth quarter of the Bears’ 29-27 loss to the Steelers on Nov. 8. Since then, he’s started and finished two games: a 15-points loss in Green Bay and an eight-point home loss to the Vikings. Fields’ ankle hurt the next day. He was set to return Sunday in Minneapolis but was put on the reserve/COVID-19 list this week, ending his season.

Pace hasn’t taken questions from the media since the start of the season. Speaking on the team’s official pregame show, he argued that Fields was the best reason for Bears fans to be optimistic about the future.

“Obviously the quarterback is the critical piece to any team’s success, and we feel really good about that,” he said. “We have good flexibility with our cap going forward. We’ll continue to stack strong draft classes and just continue to add to that core, and that’s the blueprint.”

He won’t get that chance.

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