Bernstein: Ryan Pace Might Finally Be 'All In'

Pace continues to make win-now moves as the pressure to succeed mounts.

Dan Bernstein
March 17, 2020 - 2:42 pm

(670 The Score) It's a phrase Bears general manager Ryan Pace has chosen to use before, most recently when he traded for star pass rusher Khalil Mack in September 2018 and immediately made him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history.

"All in."

It conjures the image of the Texas hold 'em poker player sitting back after pushing his stack of chips to the middle, having done all he can. He's now ready to roll into the turn and the river, set to win or bust out as his fortunes are revealed on the table.

Pace first appeared to do this when he shocked even some within the organization with the draft day trade that sent two third-round picks and a fourth-rounder to the 49ers to move up one single slot to draft quarterback Mitchell Trubisky at No. 2 overall in 2017. He tied his future to that of a raw prospect who hadn't played much college football, and the ensuing move to get Mack only increased the stakes.

So what does Pace do after one upswing season regressed into mediocrity? He throws $70 million ($30 million guaranteed) at a soon-to-be 30-year-old pass rusher and another $16 million ($9 million guaranteed) to take a flyer on a fading 33-year old tight end. Robert Quinn and Jimmy Graham might not end up being here long, and the same goes for the recently re-upped Danny Trevathan, the inside linebacker who will turn 30 in a week. Pace could have opted to go with the improving Nick Kwiatkoski for similar money, but chose the veteran, the win-now option.

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And any moment might bring a veteran quarterback, here to make sure Trubisky's alarming developmental wobbles don't derail the operation. It tells us Pace knows he also may close to the end if this doesn't pay off.

So why should Pace care about any or all of the eight picks he has in the 2020 draft? Even the hits might not be his to enjoy if he's an assistant general manager or scouting director of some kind in another organization. These assets could end up just being fodder to keep moving up the timeline to front-load this roster for what could reasonably be his last season.

Unless there's some kind of honor code that dictates responsible stewardship of a franchise and the consideration of a future beyond one's own tenure as decision-maker, it would be hard to blame Pace for remaining consistent in this shortening of the timetable, the doubling down on doubling down, to mix our gambling metaphors.

All he might have is the now, and if he can maximize coach Matt Nagy's opportunity to recapture the 2018 magic in whatever the upcoming season ends up being, nobody's going to care how much he spent and borrowed from later years to do it. Confetti and parades have a way of messing with perception that way.

Here's Ryan Pace in his sixth year at it, now mortgaged into the moment, leveraged up to his eyeballs. The cap money is all but gone, there's no first-round pick and he's coming to grips with the fact that Trubisky and two more of his four top picks might be busts.

Pace has nothing to lose but his job. He'll likely swing a trade for that quarterback, and then the dealer will flip the cards.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in midday. You can follow him on Twitter @Dan_Bernstein.