By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) The Bears announced Thursday afternoon that they hired Ryan Pace as the team’s sixth general manager in team history.
The presumption throughout the process was Chris Ballard – who spent 12 years with the organization – would get the position, but per 670 The Score’s Dan Bernstein, Pace “better articulated big picture, multi-year plan” during his interview.
Rather than staying the course of status quo that has rendered the Bears as an NFL pretender, hiring Pace could potentially signal a change in philosophy at Halas Hall. A change which is long overdue.
Despite rhetoric from president Ted Phillips that the team will compete for a Super Bowl in 2015, the reality is that the Bears are in need a fresh perspective and a voice who can enact change in both culture and overall football operations philosophy.
For years, the team has attempted quick fixes using free agency to make up for years of bad drafting, but the end result has been a top-heavy, talent-poor, expensive, aging and underperforming roster.
Pace will have to prove himself in regards to college scouting, as the bulk of his career has been spent on the pro side of the house. He rapidly rose up through the ranks of the New Orleans Saints, the franchise that up until today he had spent his entire 14-year NFL career with.
During his year-end press conference, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis was asked about Pace’s future and offered high praise in his response.
“With Ryan, we have had a couple clubs ask permission to speak with him about their general manager’s position,” Loomis said. “And look, he’s a talented guy. We have a lot of confidence in him, and we’d hate to lose him and yet look, he’s ready for a general manager’s job. He’s talented. I would expect to lose him at some point.”
The Saints did in fact lose Pace, who at 37 becomes the league’s youngest general manager.
Pace got his start in 2001, assisting with gameday, training camp and stadium operations. In 2002, Pace made the move to the scouting department, then served as a pro scout from 2004-’06, when he was involved with evaluating upcoming free agents as well as upcoming opponents and draft-eligible players.
Pace was then promoted to the team’s director of pro scouting role. With that promotion, Pace oversaw the team’s collection of pro scouts as well as presented recommendations on both internal and external free agents, roster transactions and advanced scouting of upcoming opponents.
In 2013, Pace was promoted a second time, this time becoming the team’s director of player personnel, where he oversaw the all of the club’s college and pro scouting functions.
Over that span, the Saints drafted three starters – safety Kenny Vaccaro, left tackle Terron Armstead and wide receiver Brandin Cooks – and used free agency to bolster their secondary, signing cornerback Keenan Lewis in 2013 and free safety Jairus Byrd in 2014.
“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.”
The hope for Bears fans is Pace is deserving of the promotion he just received in Chicago.
Dan Durkin covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.