Ryan Pace apologized Tuesday morning. That has become an annual tradition when Pace sits down with the media before the NFL draft, with the Chicago Bears general manager offering generalities on his philosophies while dodging questions that might lead him to divulge secrets from within Halas Hall.
“It’s always a unique time of year,” Pace said. “I hope you guys understand we can’t get into details.”
But let’s be clear on where the spotlight will shine the next several days. Pace and the Bears are seeking a long-term answer at quarterback. They will go into this week’s draft intent on addressing that need and are ready to be as aggressive as they can be. But with so much beyond the Bears’ control, there’s no telling what this latest stage of the organization’s quarterback hunt will turn up.
Can the Bears engineer a blockbuster trade to move from No. 20 into the top 10 to unite with a prospect they love, whether that be North Dakota State’s Trey Lance or Alabama’s Mac Jones or Ohio State’s Justin Fields? Yeah. Sure. Perhaps. But that isn’t something Pace can make happen simply by tightly closing his eyes and twinkling his nose.
The cost of a giant leap would be expensive. Very expensive. The Bears also must find a trade partner willing to slide back to No. 20. And that latter part of the equation, according to many in the league, may be the biggest obstacle the Bears have to steer around to make their biggest draft dreams come true.
Thus, for now, Pace has to accept a potential reality in which even the Bears’ most determined efforts don’t land them a Round 1 quarterback Thursday night. And if that’s the case, it almost certainly would require Pace to make another aggressive push Friday to land a Tier 2 quarterback: Stanford’s Davis Mills, Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond or Florida’s Kyle Trask.
Waiting to select any of those three prospects with the No. 52 pick could be risky. Therefore, a bold trade up in Round 2 might become a requirement.
The good news is all the speculation and guessing games will be over by late Saturday afternoon, and the Bears’ new course at quarterback will be set. On Tuesday, Pace answered what he could on the topic and emphasized that the 2021 quarterback class is deep.
“We’ve got to be ready for every single scenario,” he said. “However this thing plays out, however this board falls, that’s where all our preparation comes into play.”
Four years ago, the Bears wound up with the first choice of quarterbacks when Pace traded up from No. 3 to No. 2 to select Mitch Trubisky over Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. That didn’t work out so well.
The Bears are in a far different place this year with their first-round pick back at No. 20. Trevor Lawrence will be the top pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Zach Wilson likely will land with the New York Jets at No. 2.
The San Francisco 49ers then have their pick off the Jones-Lance-Fields menu, and from there, the Round 1 jockeying for the remaining quarterbacks could become intense.
Pace, who wants in on that mosh pit, also seemed understanding Tuesday that the Bears might quickly have to pivot to targeting a quarterback on Day 2.
“As scouts and evaluators, that’s the exciting part,” he said. “It’s challenging ourselves to identify those guys.”
Pace won’t be going it alone of course. For the first time, he and Nagy have been side by side and in constant discussion regarding their evaluations of a quarterback class they desire to pull from. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo have been afforded significant input as well.
Pace also emphasized he has kept Bears Chairman George McCaskey in the loop throughout the process over the last three-plus months. Pace called McCaskey a valuable sounding board.
“We talk every single day,” he said. “About everything. About quarterbacks and about our roster and about our staff. So those conversations are always ongoing and they’re ever-shifting and adjusting to the landscape that’s in front of us.
“Some of it’s in our control. Some of it’s not in our control. It’s just exploring all the different options. … It’s been really good having him involved in those discussions. It’s been very collaborative so everybody knows what’s going on with every move we make and every turn we make.”
That sounds like an improved approach over 2017, when Pace’s determination to land Trubisky triggered intense secrecy, with coach John Fox and his staff left mostly in the dark about the front office’s intentions until draft day.
Now the Bears are in do-over mode. Again. At the most important position. They have a different approach this time plus different dynamics and obstacles.
The goal is to obtain a potential long-term answer at quarterback at some point Thursday or Friday.
The outside world is waiting to see the Bears’ next move. Pretty soon Pace will be able to get into more details of what went into the process.