HAWL IN: Bold Ryan Pace won’t back down from big moves for the Bears
LAKE FOREST — It’s safe to say that there are a number of adults who’ve not been so happy to wake up early on a Saturday since they were the watching cartoon age.
But Ryan Pace gave Bears fans a reason to smile in the post-dawn hours of the first day of the Labor Day weekend.
Khalil Mack, a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, a player with 40 1/2 sacks in his first four years, and impact defender, is on his way to Chicago. This isn’t just another player, or even a Pro Bowler, this is a potential franchise piece to a Bears team trying to wrap up construction after a long rebuild.
The price reportedly is high – two first round picks plus a little more per a report from Ian Rapoport – and it might have chased away many.
But not Ryan Pace.
Say what you want about his tenure, but the general manager is not afraid. Not from day one, not in his first season making regular season trades, not when drafting his franchise quarterback, and certainly not when picking up a franchise defender.
Pace goes big or goes home, and if the latter two moves failed he’ll be out. But if he manages to end the franchise’s three-decade long championship drought, his aggressiveness will define him.
It would have been easy for the Bears to sit out the Mack sweepstakes knowing the heavy price. Even with some added optimism, a playoff appearance would be a surprise in 2018, even if the Bears were to pick up nine wins in a competitive NFC. Having those draft picks would have made sense for a team that still could be a bit from arriving as a Super Bowl contender.
Getting Mack, however, would give the Bears that shot to make the jump. Void of an impact rusher on the opposite side of Leonard Floyd, who once again is dealing with an injury, the former Raider is going to give the Bears a shot to continue their upward progress under Vic Fangio.
A unit that was tenth in yards allowed and ninth in points in the NFL returned most of their starters figured to show a little more improvement this year. But Pace wanted more, so he went bold.
Mack likely signs a long-term deal with the Bears, which will be a major contract for a franchise that has been hesitant in the past from shelling out big money. It’s a change in thinking that may be influenced by their bold general manager, whom the immediately gave a contract extension to after firing John Fox on the first of the year.
Yet after a number of moves since 2015, should we be surprised?
You remember the deals the Bears made in the regular season in 2015, including the trade of Jared Allen for a draft pick. There was trading up for Leonard Floyd in 2016, then the swap of the third pick for the second at the cost of a few more selections to take Mitchell Trubisky. Now it’s Mack at the cost of a pair of top draft picks.
Make no mistake, Pace’s career is on the line here. Fail to make the playoffs or win the championship in the next few years and he’s out. There’s no getting past moves like this if they don’t succeed, especially when precious selections are on the line. Fans are very happy now, but if Mack doesn’t pan out or Trubisky can’t reach his potential or Matt Nagy’s head coaching tenure has little success, the tide will turn fast.
But Pace isn’t going to let the fear of failure get in his way of success. He showed that with Trubisky, and he showed it again Saturday with back.
“Go Big or Go Home” might not be a slogan on his desk, but it should be.