The Bears roster is in bad shape. I know the team is clearly rebooting, and thus it is better to focus on future potential as opposed to dwell on past mistakes. But the reality of the situation is that the past regime manifestly failed this team. Much has been said to this effect, and the criticism is well deserved. It is also incomplete.
Former GM Ryan Pace had certain philosophical dispositions that led this team to this place. He preferred to leverage future picks for current players. He preferred signing placeholder free agents to allowing young players to struggle. Because of those two factors, he also preferred retaining high-cost players regardless of future effect, as he had already functionally invested in them. These are grievous flaws, ones that ultimately did his regime in- but the most damning part is that they played away from his strengths.
Ryan Pace made two marquee draft picks early in his tenure as the Bears GM. They were Kevin White and Mitchell Trubisky. Both were abject failures. These picks spoiled both the fanbase’s attitude of his decision making and may have altered how much the front office itself respected its own process. They certainly seemed far more likely to leverage these picks away after these high-profile misses. And yet, by the end of Pace’s time with the team, they had overcorrected.
Ryan Pace’s last two drafts were well done. 2020 featured the team’s current number one corner and number one receiver. It also featured an ascendant 5th round pass rusher, a 5th round corner who survived starting young, and the team’s current starting tight end. That’s a remarkable rate of success, relative to draft position. 2021 included the selection of the team’s franchise QB and both of the team’s starting tackles. While that tackle situation is not ideal, it is representative of Pace’s evaluation team. They got guys who could play at spots where they were not expected to excel (e.g. Day 3). Poles’s 2021 Day 3 included that aforementioned left tackle, a flashy #2 running back who produced when needed, a corner who (when je saw the field) looked 4 rounds better than his draft position, and a nose tackle who not only made the team out the 7th round but may start.
This is not bad work. When we as Bears fans rightfully deride this man, we must not forget what he succeeded at too.