After the Chicago Bears followed their 2018 success with a disappointing 8-8 campaign in 2019, general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy met with the media Tuesday to field questions about a number of things — but the primary focus of discussion was centered around third-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
Pace has been widely criticized for his decision to draft Trubisky second overall instead of taking Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes. Watson was drafted 12th overall, while Mahomes was taken with the 10th pick by Kansas City.
Trubisky took a few steps back in 2019 after a promising 2018 season, and his inability to read defenses remains Nagy’s primary concern regarding his quarterback moving forward — which is a bit worrisome after 41 careers starts. While Pace endorsed Trubisky as his starter in 2020, he also has not picked up the quarterback’s fifth-year option yet.
Pace was also asked about something he said when he was first hired as the Bears GM in 2015, and his response was baffling.
Why Has Pace Drafted Just One Quarterback Since 2015?
When he became general manager of the Bears in 2015, after serving as the New Orleans Saints director of player personnel, Pace spoke about the importance of bringing new quarterbacks in every year — particularly through the draft. “I think it’s a good idea to add a quarterback every year,” Pace said at the time. Calling the quarterback position a “critical” one, he added: “Because of that you can take a swing every year at it. Increase your odds.”
Some teams, for the most part, do this. Successful ones certainly do. The New England Patriots have Tom Brady, one of the all-time greats, but since the 2015 draft, the Patriots have drafted three quarterbacks, one of whom was Jacoby Brissett. They also drafted Jimmy Garoppolo in 2014. New England isn’t an anomaly — look what adding Taysom Hill and Teddy Bridgewater has done for the Saints. Worthy of note: both Bridgewater and Hill were acquired after Pace’s departure.
Pace on Drafting QB’s: ‘Important for the franchise.’
Pace was asked about his thoughts on drafting quarterbacks this week, and per the Chicago Tribune, he stressed the importance of the position. “I do think that drafting a quarterback, developing quarterbacks, that’s important for the franchise,” he said. And yet, since becoming GM in 2015, Pace has drafted just one quarterback: Trubisky. He also signed Mike Glennon to a 3-year, $45 million contract with $18.5 million guaranteed before bringing in Chase Daniel to backup — not compete with — Trubisky.
Then, he said something that made very little sense. Pace told the media that he hasn’t drafted any other quarterbacks because it “hasn’t been something that has lined up in recent drafts.”
But there are two things wrong with that statement. First, the quarterback position is the most important one in the game. Shouldn’t it be thriving with competition and fresh new talent every season to ensure the best team possible? And the second thing wrong with that statement? It simply isn’t true.
A Glimpse into Ryan Pace’s Draft History
Pace has had plenty of busts since he began drafting Bears players in 2015 (Kevin White, Adam Shaheen, and Hroniss Grasu jump to mind) but he has also found some hidden gems in players like Eddie Jackson and Tarik Cohen. But Pace has had 27 draft picks in that time, and he has drafted just one quarterback — and it’s not as if he didn’t have multiple opportunities to do so.
Just last year, Gardner Minshew II was taken early in the sixth round. The Bears, who had minimal picks in 2019, could have certainly moved up slightly in the latter rounds to snag him. They had little draft capital, but in the later rounds of the draft, not much draft capital is required.
They chose instead to keep firm in their draft position and select Duke Shelley late in the sixth round, a cornerback they hardly used this season. They also had two seventh round picks in 2019, and they chose running back Kerrith Whyte Jr. and cornerback Stephen Denmark. They cut Denmark and kept Whyte, who has a great deal of potential, on their practice squad.
Whyte’s potential is now in Pittsburgh, where he has already proven to be a valuable contributor on offense after the Steelers snagged him off the Bears practice squad mid-season.
If they were truly serious about getting the best player available via the draft, when Lamar Jackson fell to the 32nd pick of the 2018 draft, the Bears also could have traded up to get him. Chicago had two second round picks (and seven total picks) that year, but they had just drafted Trubisky the year prior, and Pace, instead of moving up in the draft like he has so many times in the past, chose not to be aggressive and go after Jackson. He had just bet the farm on Trubisky, after all.
And then there’s Jacoby Brissett. The Patriots drafted him in the third round of the draft with the 91st overall pick in 2016. The Bears’ third round selection in the 2016 draft? Defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard, who they chose with the 72nd overall pick. Bullard hardly contributed in his time with the team, and he is no longer a Bear. Again, they could have added competition in their quarterback room, but they chose not to.
Perhaps Pace never meant to mislead the franchise, the media, of the fans by making an early assertion that the quarterback position was one he would like to address every year. But to say it has never lined up? That’s just not the case.