Chicago Bears: Ryan Pace’s biggest mistake in the 2017 NFL Draft

Chicago Bears (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Chicago Bears’ general manager Ryan Pace’s biggest mistake in the 2017 NFL Draft might not be what you’d expect.

What if I told you that Chicago Bears‘ general manager Ryan Pace’s biggest mistake in the 2017 NFL Draft had nothing to do with any of the players he selected? A recent tweet from Houston Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson set off a firestorm on Twitter over the weekend.

In saying the Bears never spoke to him prior to the 2017 Draft, he picked at a scab that has yet to heal in Chicago — the decision to select Mitchell Trubisky over Watson and Patrick Mahomes.

Let’s set aside the veracity of the claim. There are conflicting reports — from Watson himself even — as to whether he spoke to the Bears. The point of this piece is not to relive Pace’s decision or even criticize his draft process, which is ripe for criticism, because that was not his biggest mistake.

Rather, the mistake he should regret the most when he reflects back on the 2017 Draft is one that he didn’t make — and that was to fire John Fox.

In retrospect, it is very clear that the team had no intention of retaining Fox beyond the 2018 season, which was the last year of his contract. That decision was made before the Draft and is why Fox wasn’t even notified that the Bears were drafting a quarterback until the morning of. You don’t keep your head coach in the dark about your draft plans unless you don’t plan for him to be around to see them through.

With that, we have arrived at the heart of the problem. The head coach — you know, the one who will be working with the franchise quarterback you select — must be on board with the pick. Throughout the evaluation process, the general manager and head coach should have been working side by side to ensure they selected a quarterback who fit their scheme. The problem is, at the time, Ryan Pace didn’t know what the Bears scheme was going to be.

A year later, he set out to find the answer, but in doing so, was effectively trying to jam a square peg into a round hole. Yes, Matt Nagy likely signed off on working with Trubisky and laid out his plan for maximizing his potential during the interview process. But who here among us hasn’t over-embellished slightly to get a job we really want? NFL head coaching opportunities are rare, and Nagy saw the need to strike while his iron was hot. And I’m sure he believed he could make it work with Mitch, but the point is, that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.

You’re not supposed to draft the quarterback and then hope the head coach can mold him into something that fits your scheme.  You’re supposed to draft the quarterback who already fits your scheme. Pace missed out on an essential component of the evaluation process by not having his new head coach be a part of it.

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It has been widely rumored that Nagy preferred Mahomes pre-draft, presumably because he felt he was the best fit for the Andy Reid style offense, which is what he is running — just as Deshaun Watson is running Bill O’Brien‘s offense. But Trubisky is running Nagy’s offense after running Fox’s offense and if he doesn’t start running it competently, they may all get run out of town.