Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Next Chicago Bears GM May Not Come From The Outside


The Chicago Bears ownership is in a difficult spot. It was clear team chairman George McCaskey was reluctant to make changes this past January at head coach and GM. This is because he likes the two men in charge. Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace both have what he believes to be the character and leadership qualities necessary to guide this team to success. However, as the Bears flounder at 3-5 with the NFL’s worst passing offense? The pressure is higher than ever to make changes.

In regards to Nagy? All signs point to that change coming. The Bears have already begun researching possible replacements. This shouldn’t be a surprise. The team has gone in the opposite direction since his excellent first year in 2018. Given the offensive failures, nobody wants him anywhere near quarterback Justin Fields after this season. The bigger dilemma is what to do about Pace.

His situation is less clearcut.

While he has made a number of mistakes over the years, drafting Mitch Trubisky and hiring Nagy being the two biggest, nobody can say he’s been outright terrible at his job. Pace has done well finding capable talent. Akiem Hicks, Khalil Mack, Adrian Amos, Cody Whitehair, Eddie Jackson, Roquan Smith, David Montgomery, and Jaylon Johnson are among his biggest highlights. Early signs are promising with the 2021 draft class as well led by Fields and Khalil Herbert.

Not bad. The problem is it hasn’t been good enough. Just one winning season since 2015 and only one victory against the Green Bay Packers. This is where the dilemma sits for McCaskey. He and the rest of the ownership like Pace. His leadership is a big part of what helped modernize the organization. They don’t want to get rid of him, but they also know keeping him GM wouldn’t go over well with fans.

So is there a compromise? A way to keep Pace in the fold while putting somebody new in his current job? It would involve shifting him to a higher role in the organization. Then they would find a new GM. Word is the Bears are also researching possible options there as well. However, they may have an idea in mind already. Rather than do an exhaustive search for a new GM, they could instead look to promote from within, handing the keys to somebody they already know and trust.

Chicago Bears already have a GM-in-waiting with Champ Kelly

He arrived as their new Director of Pro Scouting in 2015 following a successful stint with the Denver Broncos. After two seasons, the Bears promoted him to Assistant Director of Player Personnel. This gave Kelly a greater voice in the college side of the organization, a vital experience that would help prepare him for the possibility of becoming a GM. In fact, he already has some background in that regard having served as the general manager in the former United Indoor Football league.

Kelly worked at IBM before getting into football in his youth. So he has a firm understanding of the corporate side of the business. The McCaskeys know him well by now. It makes sense they’d view him as somebody they could trust with the job. Especially since other teams have had a growing interest in his services. Since 2020, the New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, and Denver Broncos have all interviewed him for their GM role.

It seems like only a matter of time before he’s running his own team.

Why not the Chicago Bears? Kelly wouldn’t be the first example of the franchise promoting from within at the GM spot. They did it several times following the departure of Jim Finks in 1983. Bill Tobin was a considerable success for them during that time. This approach is something the Chicago White Sox did recently too, promoting Kenny Williams and allowing Rick Hahn to take over as GM. That seemed to go pretty well.

Given how much McCaskey has struggled in finding the right people from other organizations, it might make sense for him to go with somebody he’s gotten to know for the past six years. Kelly is ready for his shot. Will the Bears give it to him? They will consider it.

Erik Lambert
Educated to be a writer at the prestigious Columbia College in Chicago, Erik has spent the past 10 years covering the Bears.

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