Bears GM Ryan Pace better have more answers on the field than he had in his press conference




There’s a long list of questions about what exactly the Bears are thinking in a season that began with shaky plans at left tackle and cornerback, plus a contradiction-laden approach at quarterback, and general manager Ryan Pace had all the non-answers you really didn’t need to hear.

“I am sure you have a lot of questions,” he began. “I’ll be happy to take them.”

Taking questions is much different than actually answering them.

Throughout 26 minutes Wednesday, Pace couldn’t stop saying how “excited” he was about virtually every position group or that the Bears “feel good about” whatever red flag was raised, whether it was the constantly reshuffling offensive line or Justin Fields staying stuck on the bench.

Mercifully, he avoided “collaborate,” or any other variation of Chicago’s least favorite word.

To the yes-or-no question on whether running back Tarik Cohen had a second knee surgery that pushed back his timeline, Pace didn’t “want to get into specifics.” Cohen won’t be back before late October.

Pace chuckled at a direct question of what happened when defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, whose agent has pushed for a contract extension and hasn’t gotten one, abruptly left a practice last month.

He said he couldn’t remember.

You probably think I’m making that up, but here’s the quote:

“That feels like six months ago to me, so I don’t even remember.”

Sure.

The real problem will be when non-answers in a press conference are followed by a lack of answers on the field.

After going into this season with zero players who had significant experience at left tackle, 39-year-old Jason Peters won the job in a matter of days despite the Bears still being unsure whether he can play a full game. Charles Leno, who landed a starting job immediately after the Bears cut him, averaged 67 snaps per game last season.

They’re also banking on Jaylon Johnson to build off an impressive rookie season and become a legitimate No. 1 cornerback. That’s plausible, but they’re all maybes after him. Pace is “excited” about Kindle Vildor and Artie Burns, but neither is a sure thing.

The exasperation hit its maddening peak with the shell game at quarterback. Fields will play when he’s ready, they said at first. But then it shifted to his debut hinging on how Andy Dalton performed. And they’ve maintained it’ll be based on merit despite Dalton saying in March the Bears effectively promised him the job.

“When you hear that you’re going to be the starter, that’s an enticing pitch,” Dalton said of choosing the Bears over the 49ers and others. “If it would’ve been different, maybe things would’ve turned out differently.”

Fields is the future. He has impressed in every aspect of the job to the point that Nagy said he’s ready to play if needed. But rather than accelerating his growth by getting him game reps, they’re sticking with a 33-year-old who probably won’t be on the team next season.

Why exactly?

“We’re confident in Andy,” Pace said. “It’s more about Andy right now. We’re excited about Justin — I’m more excited than anybody — but we’re just gonna let this thing play out.”

But the Bears haven’t let anything play out. They stuck to a plan they made in April regardless of what ensued. How many teams declare a quarterback competition over before it starts?

Everything about this feels like the Bears are hoping to scrape by and go 10-7 and sneak into the playoffs as a wild card that has no real shot.

The sole purpose of any team is to win a championship. The standard is to be a contender or be working your way there. Playing Fields now puts them on that path — not this season, but in the future. And that’s more valuable than seeing if Dalton can keep them afloat among a series of roster moves that can most generously be described as, well, questionable.







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