The legacy of Chicago Bears GMs is not exactly glowing. It’s mixed with some good and a lot of bad since the position was instituted for the first time back in the 1970s. Where does Ryan Pace sit in that long legacy? That depends on who you ask. Many fans will say he’s one of the worst of the bunch, posting just one winning season in six tries and monumentally fumbling a shot at a franchise quarterback in 2017.

Others will say that despite his mistakes, Pace managed to rebuild the Bears from the ashes of the Marc Trestman debacle in 2014 into a competitive football team. It feels like his legacy hangs in the balance. This upcoming NFL draft may well determine his ultimate fate. Will he rise to the occasion or will he follow those who preceded him into the fog of history, slowly forgotten?

If so, it’ll be curious if he upholds one of the weirdest team traditions along the way.

Here is something to remember about the legacy of previous Bears GMs. While many of them didn’t do a good enough job to bring Chicago a championship, a lot of them have one strange thing in common. They saved their best draft pick for the year prior to their removal from the job. Seriously. It’s almost uncanny. Check out the list.

  • Jim Finks – Entire 1983 draft (Stepped down that summer)*
  • Jerry Vainisi – Neal Anderson (Stepped down after that season)
  • Rod Graves – Walt Harris (Fired the year after)
  • Mark Hatley – Brian Urlacher (Fired the year after)
  • Phil Emery – Kyle Fuller (Fired the year after)

Finks has an asterisk next to his because his best overall pick was his first in Walter Payton. However, it must be mentioned that his best draft performance was far and away in 1983 where he landed multiple Pro Bowlers and two Hall of Famers in Jimbo Covert and Richard Dent. The rest are pretty undeniable. It’s rather amazing how so many previous Bears GMs saved their best for when it was too late to matter.

Ryan Pace needs his best performance yet in two weeks

The man has produced some quality drafts for the Bears. Yet all of them seem to come with that dreaded “yeah, but” phrase. In 2016, he secured Cody Whitehair and Jordan Howard. Yet it was marred by Leonard Floyd’s inconsistency the next few years. In 2017? Well, everybody knows about that. Eddie Jackson and Tarik Cohen in the 4th round but Trubisky and Adam Shaheen in the first two rounds. The 2018 draft could’ve been his signature one. Roquan Smith appears to be a stud. James Daniels is good. Bilal Nichols was an underrated find. Sadly his big swing on Anthony Miller seems to have missed.

With limited productivity in free agency this offseason, it feels like Ryan Pace has wagered everything on the 2021 draft. If he’s going to save his job, he needs the best showing yet in his career. A tall order given the circumstances. Though he has eight picks, most are on the lower end of each round. That makes it more difficult to find high-end talent. He, the front office, and the scouts will need some strong evaluations to see this through.

Not to mention a little luck.

Ryan Pace has his back to the wall. None of the previous GMs save for maybe Jerry Angelo managed to save themselves. He doesn’t want to be remembered for giving the team a parting gift on his way out. It’s worth remembering almost nobody who flopped in Chicago ever got a second chance elsewhere. The stakes are high. Can he deliver?