Bernstein: Pace, Bears Nailed It With Mahomes Pick

In an alternate universe, Patrick Mahomes has transformed the Bears.

Dan Bernstein
January 16, 2020 - 1:48 pm
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(670 The Score) Now is the time to give the Bears' Ryan Pace credit for doing what the great general managers do and trusting his instincts no matter what the critics may say.

He knew what he saw in Patrick Mahomes, and that's the primary reason why the Bears are here, preparing for the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on Sunday. He and his scouts examined a top-heavy quarterback class three years ago, tuned out most popular opinion and opted to stake the future of the franchise on the raw talent of the kid from Texas Tech.

Boom-or-bust pick?

Boom.

He'd have to learn how to run an NFL offense and comprehend complicated defenses, you complained. He takes too many risks, he has never worked from a huddle or under center, you admonished. He sails deep balls, has inconsistent footwork and is too reliant on his arm strength to get him out of trouble, which won't be possible in the pros.

Mahomes has made a joke of that scouting report, to the tune of 76 touchdowns, 9,128 yards and a passer rating of 109 in his two years as full-time starter in Chicago. He has been the win-because-of guy as a Bear, the engine powering a team again vying for the Super Bowl. No opposing defense has found a consistent answer for what coach Matt Nagy has been able to dial up each week, an amusement park of ingenious play designs that's always steps ahead of the game. This is the kind of next-level performance at the position that seems so foreign here after spending so many lonely years in the quarterback wilderness. And it could all have been so different.

Deshaun Watson is exactly what many expected, a solid player in Kansas City coach Andy Reid's system. He and the Chiefs are capable and efficient, with enough RPOs to let Watson use his athleticism. But the myriad injuries were exactly what Pace and Bears doctors feared from the beginning.

​There's a reason the Bears are overwhelming favorites to win a title and the Chiefs are watching from their living rooms.

And for those who spent that draft day railing against Pace for not picking Mitchell Trubisky, you might want to ask Bill O'Brien how that whole ordeal went in Houston. O'Brien just found work again as the head coach at Baylor after Matt Rhule's departure, and you can bet that he was honest with them about what was really at the source of his downfall with the Texans, who gave O'Brien everything he needed in his attempt to maximize Trubisky's development. It was never enough for the quarterback, the coach or the franchise.

There's clear concern over when and how the Bears are going to extend Mahomes, but make no mistake -- it's going to happen. It will be long and lots, and entirely deserved, the evidence right in front of us every Sunday since the moment Mahomes started to change Bears history with the kinds of throws we've never seen.

That it is all happening here is just so unlikely, too. We don't have to invoke Sid Luckman's name or point out how many all-time team records are held by Jay Cutler to underscore this franchise's ignominious quarterbacking history. Pace had to know he was staring that down when he took the job. Pace missed on the Mike Glennon stopgap plan, throwing away money because he wasn't sure Mahomes was ready to go. I think he's sure, now.

It's not an exaggeration to say that Patrick Mahomes is redefining the position, still unearthing new skills based on in-game necessities, as if unlocking cheat codes in real time. If Pace envisioned this, it's far beyond what his peers were able to predict.

Pace's own recent extension was largely a reward for writing one name on that draft card, allowing him to cash in a bet that saw him push a full stack of chips to the middle of the table and lean back in his chair with a wry smile.  

He won this one, and now the guy to whom he tied himself -- the most exciting young quarterback in football and one of the most compelling professional athletes on the planet -- will go out and lead the Bears as they try to win yet again.

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