The discussions around Ryan Pace and his status as GM remain hotly debated. For all the positive things he’s done for the organization, plenty of people are ready to move on from the GM. There are a number of reasons why, but a lot of it has to do with his choices at head coach. John Fox in 2015 and then Matt Nagy in 2018. Both of whom ended up becoming disappointments after promising starts.
Yet a lot of people wonder how much say Pace had in that first hire. While he did sign off on Fox becoming the guy, there were numerous reports stating the GM sort of had the veteran coach forced on him by ownership. While talking about the supposed benefit of the new NFL rule that allows teams to interview candidates two weeks before the end of the season, longtime insider Hub Arkush dropped a surprising nugget on 670 The Score.
“My understanding according to numerous sources is that when Ryan Pace got hired, he already had a verbal understanding that Dan Quinn was going to be the Bears head coach. Then Seattle goes on a Super Bowl run. Well, the Bears are getting advised by Ernie Accorsi, they’ve got the youngest GM in the league, they don’t want a first-time coach. John Fox suddenly becomes available.
Good friend of Ernie Accorsi’s. McCaskey and Phillips liked the idea. They talked Ryan Pace into it. That’s my understanding of how that all went down. Ryan probably could’ve vetoed it and didn’t but nonetheless, it happened because Dan Quinn wasn’t available to be interviewed.”
This is wild.
Quinn was the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks at that time. The team had probably one of the greatest defenses in NFL history. They dominated the league in 2013 en route to a Super Bowl title and were doing so again in 2014. Pace was hired as GM on January 7th of 2015. Three days before Seattle’s playoff opener vs. Carolina. A game they would win. This made interviewing the coordinator challenging.
Then the other shoe dropped. Five days after Pace got the job, Fox was fired by Denver. Not sure how long they’d have to wait on Quinn, it seems McCaskey and Phillips took their cue from Accorsi to insist the veteran coach would be perfect for the team. Pace, known for not being the most combative personality and having just gotten hired, acquiesced to their wishes. Everybody knows what happened after that.
Things might’ve been different if Ryan Pace stood his ground
After narrowly missing out on a second Super Bowl ring, Quinn was hired by the Atlanta Falcons as their new head coach. His first year they went 8-8, improving from 6-10 the year prior. Then in 2016, the team marched to a 12-4 record and rolled into the Super Bowl. They would’ve won the game too if not for an epic comeback by Tom Brady and the Patriots. Atlanta went 10-6 the next to make the playoffs before back-to-back 7-9 season in 2018 and 2019.
After a rough start to 2020, he was fired. Now he’s the defensive coordinator in Dallas and has the Cowboys playing their best on that side of the ball in years. Experts believe it is only a matter of time before he ends up a head coach again somewhere else. No doubt Ryan Pace wonders to this day how different things might’ve been those early years if he’d gotten his way. Sadly a well-meaning but misled ownership handcuffed him.
Now he is in danger of losing his job.
To be fair, McCaskey corrected his original mistake by giving Pace free reign to pick the guy in 2018 and the GM still got it wrong. Nagy came in with a high profile just like Quinn but far less actual credibility. While the young coach had leadership traits, his actual grasp of the head coaching demands proved overwhelming after a period of time. An unfortunate what-if the Bears can add to their extensive library.