<
>

Ryan Pace gambles on future of franchise with Mitchell Trubisky

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Ryan Pace staked his career to Mitchell Trubisky on Thursday night.

In the boldest move by a Chicago Bears general manager since Jerry Angelo traded for Jay Cutler, Pace stunningly moved to draft quarterback Mitchell Trubisky at No. 2. The same Mitchell Trubisky who started only 13 games in four years at North Carolina.

Look, there’s no gray area.

Pace is a genius if Trubisky develops into a true franchise quarterback. The Bears haven’t had one of those since Sid Luckman in the 1940s, and no price is too high for the right quarterback.

“If we want to be great, you just can’t sit on your hands," Pace said. "There are times when you’ve got to be aggressive and when you have conviction on a guy, you can’t sit on your hands. I just don’t want to be average around here, I want to be great and these are the moves you have to make.”

But if Trubisky doesn’t work out, Pace takes the fall. End of story. And the misery continues.

There is, though, plenty to like about the quarterback. Trubisky -- 6-foot-3, 225 pounds -- started only one full season in college, but was impressive as a junior, passing for 3,746 yards and 30 touchdowns. That cemented Trubisky at, or near, the top of the quarterback draft class -- depending on which team you talk to. Most expected Trubisky to come off the board in the first round.

Pace raised the ante. The Bears not only felt Trubisky was the best quarterback of the bunch, Pace identified him as the best available player, period, after the Cleveland Browns took Myles Garrett No. 1.

Now, a cynic will point out that the Bears -- after finishing 3-13 -- just traded away pick Nos. 3, 67 and 111, plus next year’s third-rounder, to take a guy second overall who isn’t expected to play right away. Also keep in mind that Chicago has missed the playoffs six straight years and nine of the past 10. Shouldn’t winning now be a priority? Pace and coach John Fox are 9-23 in Chicago. How much better is the roster going to get with fewer draft choices at their disposal on Friday and Saturday? There were plenty of players available -- had the Bears stayed at No. 3 -- who probably would’ve been starters Day 1. Trubisky is not in that category.

"We still have other avenues to improve our team," Pace said. "We still have the rest of this draft, we had a pretty aggressive free agency, and competition at the quarterback position is a good thing. How are you going to get better at the quarterback position if you don't address it like this?"

That's fair, but it does put Mike Glennon, who is no doubt confused by the choice (for the record, Pace said Glennon is fine), in an awkward spot. Glennon is probably wondering why the Bears pursued him so aggressively in free agency, and essentially bid against themselves, if Pace’s master plan all along was drafting a quarterback in the top three? Glennon is a professional, so he'll put on a brave face, but it must be troubling.

Pace can say there's no quarterback controversy, but c'mon, Trubisky is playing sooner rather than later. He's the second overall pick!

And was it necessary to trade up to get him? That remains a mystery, but Pace couldn't say for certain that the 49ers had another concrete offer on the table.

The reality is that none of the skepticism matters if Trubisky becomes the Bears’ starting quarterback for the next decade.

The problem will be if he's not. There's no recovering from the decision -- if it goes bad.

Pace is all-in on Trubisky, and for the organization's sake, he better be spot on with the evaluation.