Ask Hub: Is 2020 a make-or-break year for Bears GM Ryan Pace?

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Bears Insider Hub Arkush answers subscribers Bears questions weekly:

Will they try the draft to upgrade both their tackle spots. No one is going to let go of decent tackles. Submitted by Daniel Bartos

What, in your opinion, do the Bears do at left tackle? Submitted by Hadji

Daniel and Hadji, part of the problem with answering your questions is as obvious as it is to me the Bears need to get better at left tackle – I’m fine with Massie on the right side and hope they will re-sign Cornelius Lucas as a solid swing tackle option – it’s not at all clear that Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy agree with us and I haven’t had the opportunity to talk with Juan Castillo since he was hired.

Two of the best left tackles in the game, Andrew Whitworth and Jason Peters, are free agents, but they are 39 and 38 years old so awfully unlikely candidates for the Bears to pursue.

Anthony Costanzo is the only other instant upgrade on the left side in free agency, and he is 32, talking retirement and if he plays a again, likely re-signs in Indianapolis.

Jack Conklin is probably the best young tackle in the market, but he’s played on the right side in the NFL to date.

The best option would be if the Bears could swing a trade with Washington for Trent Williams, but now that Ron Rivera is there and Bruce Allen isn’t, it seems likely Rivera will do all he can to convince Williams to stay in Washington.

All that leaves is the Draft and it is a very good – really solid at the top – and deep year at tackle. My hope is the Bears will use one of their second-round picks and one of their fives on tackles, assuming the right guys are there at the time.

Was Jimi Hendrix the best guitarist ever? Submitted by Black Bridge

Wow, I don’t know, it’s kind of like asking is Walter Payton the greatest running back of all time? I think so but can I really leave out Jim Brown and Barry Sanders?

Hendrix is on my extremely short list and four days out of seven I’d probably have him at number one, but then I’d take a step back and ask myself what about Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Jimmy Page, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Johnny Winter, Mike McCready and a few others.

In the end I always struggle between Hendrix and Clapton, but I sure wouldn’t argue if Hendrix is your choice.

I’d give anything if he’d been able to stick around longer for us to really get to know him better.

If you had one place to eat at for the rest of your life between these two? Arby’s or Burger King? Which one? Btw, do the local Chicago Bears target A.J. Green in F.A? Submitted by Kevin Piccirilli

Kevin, I am not a vegetarian by any stretch but I rarely eat red meat – literally maybe half a dozen cheeseburgers a year and skirt steak on the barbeque is it, so I’d be in big trouble at either spot. I do like the chicken sandwiches at the King, and I am curious about the “Impossible Burger” – the concept makes me queasy to be honest but I’ve heard they’re pretty good and need to try one — so I guess if I was stuck it’d be Burger King.

Green is a potential Hall of Famer and still productive at 32, but he’s been banged up a lot in recent years, is highly unlikely to take a reasonable one-year prove-it deal, and with the Bears’ cap situation and needs in other areas, I’d say no.

He is also literally the same receiver as a much younger Allen Robinson style-wise and while two of those guys wouldn’t be bad, it’s just not a need.

Any wideouts the Bears do add need to be all about speed at this point, and that’s not Green.

Will the Bears add a pass rusher in free agency.? Who is a possibility? Submitted by Pat Gallagher

Pat, I’m glad you asked me this because it’s been an interesting topic of debate between Arthur and me the past few days and weeks.

I would like to see the Bears go at least one more year with Leonard Floyd because I think he’s become a quality, “complete” outside linebacker.

But they can’t pay him the $13.2 million they’re locked in for this year with his limited pass rush production.

Ideally, I think they should try and extend him something like two years at another $12 to $13 million total, allowing them to lower the cap hit this year to a more palatable $8.5 million or so. I don’t know if he’d take that deal but based on his performance to date he’d be well served if he did, and then the Bears could use the money saved to bring in another young pass rush specialist, or maybe even a proven veteran like a Mario Addison.

The hope has always been that Aaron Lynch could be that third guy with Mack and Floyd, but neither Floyd nor Lynch have consistently provided enough pressure.

There is outstanding talent available, including Jadeveon Clowney, Dante Fowler Jr., Shaq Barrett, Arik Armstead, Bud Dupree, Markus Golden and a few more, but based on what the Bears already have invested in Mack, Hicks, Goldman, Fuller and Jackson, and bigger needs on offense, I just don’t see how they can shop at that market.

In addition to Addison, Robert Quinn could be interesting too.

Hub, What’s your opinion on Ryan Pace? How does Pace stack rank to his GM peers with similar tenure? Submitted by Ryan Dufern

What grade would you give Ryan Pace so far as Bears GM?!? Submitted by Sean Rogers

Does Ryan Pace get fired if the Bears go below 500 next year? Submitted by Andy Armstrong

Okay guys, let me see what I can do for all of you with one answer.

Pace inherited one of the worst rosters in the NFL five seasons ago and one of the worst locker rooms/cultures in the NFL.

He was forced to spend his first three years with John Fox fixing the culture and building infrastructure.

Over the past two seasons with Matt Nagy, his club is 20-13. Only seven other clubs – New England, Kansas City, New Orleans, L.A. Rams, Baltimore, Houston and Seattle – have done as well. The only G.M.’s in that group with similar tenure are Brett Veach in K.C. and Eric DeCosta in Baltimore, both of whom are more recent than he is, and DeCosta’s just in his first year without Ozzie Newsome.

Obviously, Veach has the Chiefs in a better spot than the Bears, but other than that Pace actually ranks highly against 4-6 season general managers based on the Bears last two seasons.

He probably deserves a high grade but the best I can give him is a B because of the continued uncertainty around the future of Mitch Trubisky and more immediate successes of Mahomes and Watson.

But while he will forever be linked to these three quarterbacks, and quite justifiably, you can’t objectively grade a GM on one decision.

Is Adam Shaheen a bad miss? Yes. But does Pace get a spot in the G.M. Hall of Fame for finding Jordan Howard, Bilal Nichols and Adrian Amos in the 5th round, Eddie Jackson, Tarik Cohen and Nick Kwiatkoski in the fourth?

The rampant criticism of Pace and Nagy today isn’t because they’ve done a bad job, although both have clearly made mistakes.

It’s because of the out-sized hype and expectations coming into the 100th season, and the play of Mahomes in K.C.

Does he get fired if the Bears don’t have a .500 season in 2020? What if they go 7-9 or 6-10 with eight or nine starters on injured reserve, including Trubisky after he plays really well the first four, five or six weeks.

I can tell you neither Pace nor Nagy is in any trouble with ownership right now, nor are they anywhere near the “bubble.” But answering Andy’s question without context is impossible.

Given potential system fit, limited cap space for FA + limited draft capital, who is the vet QB competition for Mitch? Submitted by Matt White

Is Teddy Bridgewater being considered by the front office ? Submitted by C.L.

Hub: If you were the #Bears GM, who would be your first through third preferred options for a free agent QB to either compete with or supplant Trubisky?

Matt, that is the question of the hour and I don’t have the answer as to who will be the choice, but the best options seem pretty obvious.

It is most likely Case Keenum, Marcus Mariota and Blake Bortles. All three are almost certain to hit the market while others could either get tagged or will certainly be too expensive for the Bears.

Teddy Bridgewater is the most likely young free agent to have a chance to become a franchise guy, but he’s not a great scheme fit, he is going to get paid a ton by someone and he may still eventually prove to be more game manager than stud.

Keenum and Mariota are the best scheme fits for the Bears, and while Bortles isn’t the athlete the other two are he can do a lot of damage with his legs.

Based on his 2017 campaign in Minnesota, Keenum is obviously the most ready to win now if the Bears can significantly upgrade their ground game, but he is unlikely to be the future.

If you’re looking for competition and upside, Mariota and Bortles are your guys because they will be reasonably priced early on and have shown enough to suggest in the right scheme, with the right coaching and the right weapons, one of them could be your quarterback for today and the future if it turns out Trubisky isn’t.

What happened to all of Matt Nagy’s fancy plays this year ie. Santa’s Sleigh, Willy Wonka, etc? Did he suddenly get insecure about his play calling? Submitted by Canuck Boy

Nagy talked about that exact question around Week 13 or 14, explaining when you’re not winning its not the best time to be rolling that stuff out.

What some fans have failed to understand is those plays from Nagy are as much about culture as they are about scheme or offense.

He has explained often he believes one of the most important things he has to see to is that his players are always having fun if they’re going to be successful, and a lot of those plays, while designed to work and be effective, are put into the game plan to find the right moment to create momentum, excitement and reward certain players who are rarely in the spotlight.

The problem is when you run them and you don’t work, and you’re already being roasted on a daily if not hourly basis for your play-calling, that’s a great way to make things worse rather than better.

I’m quite sure if the Bears start winning in 2020, you’ll see a lot more of the gadgetry again.

Why is it Hub you basically call Mitch dumb/mental midget which many would agree but you kind of recant and say you’re not calling him dumb. Why the need to recant? Submitted by Martin Dekelai

Deep down do you think Mitch can be a really good QB. Submitted by Steve Roberts

Marty, either you’re hearing things or you’re just projecting what you’d like me to say because you’ve never heard me say a single word questioning Trubisky’s intelligence or I.Q., and in four-plus decades on the beat I never have and never would lower myself to name-calling or insulting players for what they do on the field.

I have absolutely no reason whatsoever to question Mitch’s intelligence, nor have I, so I’ve never had anything to recant.

I have on a number of occasions questioned his maturity, how he reacts to certain situations and how advanced he is at this time reading NFL defenses and seeing the field, but none of that has anything to do with his intelligence.

I have explained that I think those are the issues that are holding him back right now but that I refuse to write him off or say he can’t still be a very good quarterback because of the flashes of some special skills we have seen, so if that’s what you’re calling recanting I guess I get it. But you really should listen better and keep a dictionary close.

Steve, deep down I do believe Trubisky can be very good. He has a lot of the traits we look for in winning quarterbacks capable of making plays on their own when their teams need them most.

But I’ve seen a lot of other kids with those same traits who’ve never become great or very good. I believe only some of what it takes to play quarterback can be taught, some you have to be born with.

To me it gets back to the question of maturity and when he will be ready to reach his full capacity or ceiling, if you will, or if he ever gets there.

Do I think he can be very good? Yes. Do I believe he will be? I have serious doubts based on where he was at at the end of the ’19 season.

I think the Bears are absolutely correct to invest one more season in trying to be sure what that ceiling is and if Mitch can get there, but if we get to May or June without solid plans B and C in place, then shame on Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy.

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