By Chris Emma–

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) — The Bears are confident in general manager Ryan Pace and his plan leading the franchise forward — so confident, in fact, that they awarded him a two-year contract extension Monday, the same day he fired coach John Fox.

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Team president Ted Phillips announced the extension for Pace to open the year-end press conference at Halas Hall on Monday afternoon, a deal that will run through 2021 and likely parallel the contract length of the Bears’ next head coach. While Pace didn’t offer details on what he seeks in a candidate, the list of names is already forming.

Pace will have Phillips and Bears chairman George McCaskey working with him in conducting the search and accompanying him in interviews, though Phillips confirmed it will be Pace “leading the charge.”

“George and I are going to be support resources for Ryan,” Phillips said. “He’s leading the charge, he’s doing all the reference checking, he’s come up with his list right now. We’ll see how that goes in terms of the competition and who comes in. But I don’t think he’s ever going to tell you exactly who’s coming in. We’ll talk later about whether or not once a guy interviews, we’ll probably let you know who interviewed.

“My years in this league, I’ve been around a lot of different head coaches, sharing ideas. We have a real collaborative environment here, so Ryan and I have a great relationship, along with George as well. So I think just giving our input into things to look for, how to assess the results of different interviews will be helpful to him.”

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As Phillips spoke in a scrum of reporters, McCaskey held court in another corner of a Halas Hall corridor.

“Ted and I are both available to Ryan as sounding boards, to play devil’s advocate, to make sure that he’s considering all aspects of a particular candidate’s makeup, approach, strategy, philosophy,” McCaskey told reporters. “Making sure that we’re looking at every candidate that may be available and making sure that we leave no stone unturned to get the best possible head coach for the Chicago Bears.”

Pressed several times, Pace declined to offer details regarding the qualifications of his next head coach. He expressed an openness to all kinds of candidates, including any type of coordinator or college coach.

Pace will have the final say in choosing the next head coach, and he has the backing of those above him.

“He’s grown so much,” Phillips said. “He’s not afraid to take risks in player personnel – my opinion. It’s a business where you don’t get a 90-percent success rate. If you’re getting a 60-, 65-percent success rate, I think most general managers would be considered successful. So you’ve got to take risks. You can’t be afraid to fail. So I would say that’s one area where I’m really proud of his growth.​”

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Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670 The Score Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.