(CBS) The Bears have hired Saints director of player personnel Ryan Pace as their new general manager, they announced Thursday afternoon.
Pace, 37, has spent the past 14 seasons working in New Orleans as a member of the Saints organization, including 13 in the player personnel department. He’s been the director of player personnel for the past two seasons, working closely with Saints GM Mickey Loomis. Prior to that, he was the director of pro scouting for six years.
Pace becomes the sixth GM in franchise history and replaces Phil Emery, who was fired on Dec. 29 after Chicago concluded a 5-11 season.
“He’s really good at what he does,” Saints coach Sean Payton said recently, according to the team’s website. “He’s a big part of what we do.
“Guys like him, they’re talented, he’s very talented. I know he’s been promoted here, deservedly so, a few times. I know this, I get fired up when he comes to see me first thing this morning. His mind is already racing. I know he is all-in.”
Pace interviewed with the Bears on Wednesday. He wasn’t viewed as the favorite, as many believed Chiefs director of player personnel Chris Ballard — who worked in Chicago for 12 seasons — was the front-runner.
Helping Pace’s cause was that Bears brass — chairman George McCaskey, president Ted Phillips and consultant Ernie Accorsi ran the search — appreciated his understanding for the need for a multi-year rebuild from the ground up, plus the team had a desire to break away from the past, 670 The Score’s Dan Bernstein reported on-air. The Bears really liked Ballard as a candidate as well, Bernstein reported.
The Bears also interviewed Texans pro personnel director Brian Gaine and Titans vice president of player personnel Lake Dawson for their GM job.
In Pace’s time in New Orleans in the player personnel department, the Saints compiled a .553 winning percentage, and they’ve reached the playoffs five times and won three divisional titles since 2006. They also won the Super Bowl following the 2009 season.
Pace has worked to help acquire players such as running back Darren Sproles, guard Ben Grubbs, nose tackle Brodrick Bunkley and linebacker Curtis Lofton during his time in New Orleans, according to the Bears’ official release.
Under Pace’s guidance the past two seasons, the Saints’ draft classes have included current starters Terron Armstead (2013, third round) at left tackle, Brandin Cooks (2014, first round) and Kenny Stills (2013, fifth round) at receiver and Kenny Vaccaro (2013, first round) at safety.
Pace attended Eastern Illinois University, where he played from 1995-’99. He’s a native of Flower Mound, Texas.
Pace’s first order of business will be to hire a new coach. He was taking part in Chicago’s interview with Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles on Thursday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The Bears have also already interviewed Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase for the coaching job.
Pace will be introduced at a press conference on Friday at 11 a.m. at Halas Hall.