Hours after parting ways with coach John Fox Monday, the Bears announced that general manager Ryan Pace's contract has been extended through the 2021 season.
"We believe Ryan is the man to lead our football operations into the future," Bears president and CEO Ted Phillips told reporters in kicking off a press conference at Halas Hall. "He's earned the opportunity to see his plan to fruition."
Pace was hired in January 2015 to replace Phil Emery following a dysfunctional 5-11 season. The contract extension presumably will put him on the same timetable as the new head coach he will hire.
"When Ryan was hired three years ago, he told us that a plan to build a team for sustainable success would not be easy," Phillips said. "But his plan to build principally through the draft, to lay the right foundation, made sense to us, and it still does. So we're still committed to that plan, despite our disappointing won/loss record over the last three seasons.
"There has been a significant transformation of our team. Since Ryan was named general manager, we have the third highest roster turnover in the league. At the end of this past season, we have four draft picks that were with us prior to 2015—it's the fewest in the league. But the good news is we've added young talent to build a foundation around."
Bears president and CEO Ted Phillips speaking during Monday's press conference.
That young talent includes four 2017 draft picks in quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, running back Tarik Cohen, safety Eddie Jackson and tight end Adam Shaheen; and five 2016 draft picks in outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, offensive lineman Cody Whitehair, defensive end Jonathan Bullard, linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski and running back Jordan Howard.
"When we hired Ryan we saw the key characteristics of successful general managers in him," Phillips said. "We feel he has exhibited those traits in his three years as general manager. He's had leadership skills. He shows a clear vision of how to put together a winning team. He's always striving to find better ways to get that competitive edge.
"He understands what the coaches need. He understands about how to develop players. He's done a great job of developing trust between the scouting staffs and the coaching staffs. He has excellent communication skills throughout the organization. And probably most importantly, he's learned how to be a decisive decision-maker. He has the instincts to see talent. He's taken calculated risks in the draft and in free agency while at the same time maintaining an eye on roster flexibility, salary-cap flexibility.
"He's identified value at every level of the draft. And last but not least, he's got great character. Great work ethic. He knows he needs to improve, as we all do. But we see the progress in our roster and we're confident that that growth is going to continue."
Pace opened his portion of Monday's press conference by thanking Bears fans.
"I know this hasn't been easy and the results aren't what we all want," Pace said. "But their passion, their support is unmatched and I can't thank them enough. I'm extremely appreciative to both George [McCaskey] and Ted for their continued support. This is not something I take for granted and I'm going to continue to do everything in my power to get the best staff, coaches and players in place to make this city proud."
Pace acknowledged that Fox isn't the only one responsible for the Bears' 14-34 record over the past three seasons. But the general manager sees positive signs for the future.
"I understand those results are also a reflection on me," Pace said. "I have to do a better job. But as I stand here today and I look at where we're heading, there's sincere optimism. If you look back at this time last year, we had major questions. We had major questions at the most important position on our team: quarterback. We were aggressive in our approach to address that position, and we couldn't be happier in the direction that it's heading.
"It's on us to continue to surround our young quarterback with the talent he needs to succeed. We must continue to add to our young core, steadily develop the players on our roster and build upon the foundation we already have. Our impact starters are mostly younger players and we must build upon that. If we do that, it's only going to pay dividends going forward."