Ryan Pace has never met a below-average quarterback he didn’t fall in love with.
I should have known better than to think Bears general manager Ryan Pace would make the right decision regarding the quarterback position.
In a year when there has never been this much quarterback talent on the free agent and trade market, Pace found a way to screw it up. When the Carolina Panthers put Cam Newton on the open market and reports circulate about the Bears being interested in the former NFL MVP, it’s easy to be tantalized by visions of Newton in a Bears jersey.
That dream was dashed when Pace traded a fourth-round pick for Nick Foles.
Shame on me for thinking Pace would get it right, but he’s proven he’s incapable of that.
After signing Mike Glennon and giving him $18.5 million in guaranteed money as one of his first moves as the team’s general manager three years ago, Pace has shown a repeated failure to identify quarterback talent.
No matter how many times I try to forget this ever happened, Pace’s biggest failure is drafting former North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in the 2017 draft. Clearly, Pace was impressed with the 13 career starts he had with the Tar Heels and took him over Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes.
It didn’t take long for that pick to blow up in Pace’s face.
This isn’t second-guessing because it’s convenient to pile on Pace. I’ve lived this nightmare since Pace traded the No. 3 pick, a pair of third-round picks and a fourth-round pick to San Francisco in order to take Trubisky.
You don’t have to go to Lenscrafters to learn hindsight is 20/20, but this is first-guessing on Pace.
I wrote in January of 2017 after Watson shredded Nick Saban’s Alabama defense in the National Championship Game the Bears couldn’t afford to pass on the Clemson star.
And when the Bears drafted Trubisky, I became unhinged on Twitter and had to go to a safe space before I became even more undone by Pace’s next brain fart.
Look, no one anticipated Mahomes throwing 50 touchdowns in his first full year and becoming an MVP and Super Bowl MVP in his first three years. But how can a talent evaluator look at Mahomes, Watson and Trubisky side-by-side-by-side and come to the conclusion you need to go all Sonny Weaver Jr. in Draft Day and get Trubisky no matter what?
Bears fans, non-Bears fans and even I have said to just get over it already. But do you think Portland Trail Blazers fans just got over it when their team passed on Michael Jordan for Sam Bowie?!
I’ll take this to my grave or until the Bears win a Super Bowl.
But Pace will be long gone before that happens. He hitched his ride to Trubisky and he’s already admitted it’s a failure after trading their fourth-round compensatory pick in exchange for Foles.
This comes in the same week he released his first first-round pick as the Bears GM when he cut Leonard Floyd after signing Robert Quinn. This was a real nice signing. Pace has made some shrewd moves on the defensive side, notably signing Akiem Hicks and drafting Eddie Jackson in the fourth round. He’s not a genius for giving up a pair of first round picks for Khalil Mack. It’s obviously on his resume, but any general manager would have done that deal for that player.
Back to Foles, who is not going to be the answer. After signing a big deal to be the Jaguars starter, he went 0-4 as the starter and couldn’t get his job back from sixth-round rookie Gardner Minshew when he returned from a collarbone injury.
Foles is not a clear upgrade over Trubisky, which is what the Bears needed to find if they want to be a legitimate playoff contender. Foles beat the Bears in the infamous double-doink game two postseasons ago. It’s the last game he’s won as a starter.
Foles has made 13 regular-season starts over the last four seasons, throwing a total of 18 touchdowns to eight interceptions. His improbable run as the starter for the Philadelphia Eagles after Carson Wentz got hurt that ended with a win over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots and a Super Bowl MVP is a total fluke.
It’s a great story. Foles is a great person. But he’s not a great quarterback and he doesn’t solve the problem for the franchise that has never been able to find a capable signal-caller.
The Bears hope the familiarity the coaching staff has with Foles will help him go from one-hit wonder to the answer.
Foles was with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2016 when Bears head coach Matt Nagy was his quarterbacks coach. Foles backed up Alex Smith for his one year there, completing 33-of-55 passes for 410 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
During that Super Bowl run, his quarterbacks coach was John Defilippo who is now his quarterbacks coach with the Bears.
Prior to that, Foles worked with Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazor with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013 when he looked like he’d be a quality starter moving forward. Foles threw 27 touchdowns to only two interceptions with an NFL-best 9/18 ANY/Y and quarterback rating.
Again, just like Foles’ Super Bowl run, it proved to be a fluke.
That was in the Chip Kelly era when he fooled NFL teams into thinking he was a genius. It caught up with Kelly next year and the rest is history. It almost derailed Foles’ career who contemplated retiring when he was with the St. Louis Rams.
Pace is hoping Foles has another one-year wonder year in him.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Foles’ contract was restructured but he’ll still be owed $21 million guaranteed and he can void the deal after one year.
This might be an expensive one-year rental for Pace.
He’s already paid so much in draft capital to get Trubisky and in a year with limited capital, Pace gave up a fourth-round pick to get Foles. Neither fixes the quarterback position. The Bears still have the same questions today as they did when they ended the year outside the playoffs.
If Foles is adequate and lifts the Bears to the playoffs, he’ll void his deal, and the Bears will be looking for a quarterback all over again.
Trubisky’s future is up in the air. He may be traded for peanuts. He may be brought to training camp to “compete” with Foles for the starting job.
If Foles bombs, he won’t void his deal and the Bears will be stuck with him for another year or two. And if that happens, at least Pace won’t be around to pick the next quarterback.
And good thing too because if the Bears were in a position to draft Clemson’s rising junior Trevor Lawrence, he’d find a way to screw that up too.