Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears

Will Justin Fields Be the Draft Trade Overpay that Saves Ryan Pace?

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There wasn't the same exhibitionism as there was in 2020. That year, COVID turned general manager Ryan Pace's dining room into the Bears draft room. And if you could tear your eyes away from his massive spherical chandelier and the intimidating four-monitor, multi-computer setup on his dining table, you could stare at Pace and try to infer his state of mind. This year, the Bears were back in their typical draft room in Halas Hall, and Pace was one of 10 similar-looking suited men whose masks hid their countenances as much as they promoted safe social practices. But you could hear, as Adam Jahns of The Athletic reported, head coach Matt Nagy scream in happiness and excitement. And even if Pace was more stoic in his delivery of the news that they were getting Justin Fields, you could vividly picture how he must have looked and felt in the 90 minutes between when the draft started and when he landed the team's coveted next franchise quarterback.

In some ways, that selection was predictable. A year before it, Pace had declined former franchise quarterback Mitchell Trubisky's fifth-year option, a vote of non-confidence that has almost always foreshadowed a player's departure from his drafting team. But by many measures, Trubisky enjoyed something of a renaissance in 2020. His 67.0% completion rate and 6.9 yards per attempt echoed his 66.6% and 7.4 rates from his fan-forgotten 2018 Pro Bowl season. And his 6-3 record as the starter—even if aided by backup Nick Foles' comeback efforts in Week 3 in Atlanta—propelled the team to a playoff berth. Trubisky produced meager passing statistics in a 21-9 wild-card loss to the Saints, but teams have talked themselves into another year with the same core roster for less than his 3-1 December finish and a dropped 40-yard would-be touchdown that changed the complexion of an eventual playoff loss. Especially teams with a possible lame-duck general manager.

Pace deserves credit for his proper reading of Trubisky's apparent rebound and stewardship of the Bears franchise. Because while traditional statistics paint an optimistic picture of Trubisky's...