By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) There was an air of newness in the George “Mugs” Halas auditorium Friday as the Bears introduced Ryan Pace as their sixth general manager in team history. A fresh-faced, fast-riser in the industry, Pace emphasized how good it felt to be “empowered” in Chicago.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: 2 Rounds Of Severe Storms Possible Sunday
As is the case with all introductory press conferences, the underlying tones are those of optimism infused with hope that the vision the man the organization has placed its short-term faith in leads to long-term success.
“Today is a day to smile and look forward,” team president Ted Phillips said. “True enough, but in the end, all the words that were shared must translate to actions that ultimately result in wins.”
While Phillips confirmed that Pace is going to oversee the entire football operation, Phillips himself won’t be completely decoupled from football decisions at Halas Hall.
Pace will indeed have the final say on both the head coach and 53-man roster, but it will be a “group effort” involving Pace, Phillips, chairman George McCaskey and consultant Ernie Accorsi.
Obviously, Pace didn’t get specific about the plan he presented to the Bears, but he did say the team would be creative in building the roster. And at the heart of the matter is building a foundation through the draft.
“For the Bears to have sustained success, we must build through the draft,” said Pace, who worked for the Saints for the past 14 years. “The recipe to winning Super Bowls is stringing successful drafts together again and again.”
While the Bears observe the playoffs from their couches, the NFC North sent two teams for the third time since the Bears last made the playoffs in 2010.
“Those teams (Green Bay and Detroit) have a done a successful job of building their teams through the draft,” Pace said. “So that’s where we got to get to. We got to build our team strong through the draft to have sustained success. Honestly, I respect what Green Bay’s done. I respect what Ted Thompson’s done. I respect what Detroit’s done. They built through the draft, and they are sustaining success because of that.”READ MORE: At Least 3 Killed, 28 Wounded In Weekend Shootings In Chicago
At first blush, Pace’s resume shows that he’s spent the majority of his career on the pro side of the house, but he shared some insight about how the personnel departments function in New Orleans.
“In New Orleans, the pro and college departments are blended together,” Pace said. “So whether you’re working on one side or the other, you’re really doing both, and I actually think that’s important. So I was involved with the draft throughout my entire career.”
The Saints have had their share of successes in the draft over the past decade, uncovering several mid- to late-round gems like guard Jahri Evans (fourth round, 2006), wide receiver Marques Colston (seventh round, 2006), left tackle Jermon Bushrod (fourth round, 2007), guard Carl Nicks (fifth round, 2008), and perennial All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham (third round, 2010).
Undoubtedly, the biggest acquisition made during Pace’s time in New Orleans was signing quarterback Drew Brees, which Pace said was a “group effort.” Recently, the Bears have fallen into a trap of overusing free agency in an attempt to apply quick fixes to years of poor drafting, but Pace sees the value and how one avenue lends itself to the other.
“In a perfect world,” Pace said,”you’re acquiring players in free agency that allow you to draft the best player available in the draft.”
Armed with the seventh overall selection in the 2015 draft, Pace has the opportunity to land a blue-chip player to a roster that desperately lacks young talent.
Pace offered up a bit of honesty about the situation he’s stepping into.
“It’s not always a honeymoon,” Pace said. “I’m smiling today and things are great today, but how do you handle yourself when it’s not that way?”
Given the litany of major decisions has to make — hiring a head coach and full staff, building a scouting department, making crucial roster decisions and preparing for offseason moves — in the coming weeks and months, the honeymoon is quickly coming to an end, and Pace will certainly learn a lot about himself.MORE NEWS: Woman Dead After Being Stabbed On South Wacker Drive Downtown
Dan Durkin covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.