General manager Ryan Pace spoke with Jeff Joniak Sunday on the Bears pregame radio show on WBBM Newsradio 780 AM and 105.9 FM. The following is a complete transcript of the interview:
JJ: Congrats on that 3-0 start. High drama, digging out of holes, comebacks, defense making game-ending plays. It really spells it out for you, doesn't it?
RP: "We're fortunate to be 3-0. It's a major credit to our players, our coaches, the resiliency, making critical plays down the stretch. Certainly, it's not exactly how you plan it, but, hey, we're 3-0 and [have] a huge test today against the Colts."
JJ: Run to the L. Could that in some strange way be a theme for the season? It's a benchmark moment maybe to build on. Foles tells Miller, "Run to the L, I'm going to get it to you." That could be a theme.
RP: "For sure, I think you build off that. First of all, it's an impressive play call and a great read by Nick. You credit the whole O-line. The protection was just enough. Nick throws a great ball and then Anthony secures the catch. It's something to build upon with our offense. Anytime there's a key play or a key moment like that, we build on them. And I think you look back—I know it's only been three games, but we've had some big plays at big moments on both sides of the ball, and that lifts the whole team."
JJ: As it's happening, what are you thinking when Matt [Nagy] decides to turn to Foles in that third quarter?
RP: "A hundred percent trust and confidence in Matt. Those decisions are sensitive and delicate, especially when you're talking about the quarterback position. But Matt's got a great feel for what the team needs and obviously we won the game. I felt like he knew it would light a spark. Coming back 16 points down against a tough team on the road. Matt and I talk all the time about the different scenarios and key decisions and we're on the same page and march forward together."
JJ: That's not an easy decision for everybody. Given the ramifications, it does affect the entire team in any NFL locker room.
RP: "For sure, and I think with any team, it's definitely not a simple decision. But I think what keeps it simple for us and clean for us is that if you just come back to, every time, what's best for the Chicago Bears to win football games right now, period. And if you keep it simple like that, it gives you clarity in these moments."
JJ: How difficult was the conversation this week, if you had one, with Mitch?
RP: "I did. We all had different individual conversations. He's such a competitor. Obviously he's disappointed. He wants to be the starter and really we expect that from any player on our team to have that kind of mindset. He's still very much a leader of this team and he will be all season. He came in this week ready to roll, working hard, helping to prepare us for the Colts. He's been stepping up and supporting Foles just like Foles did for him when he was backing up. As I look at it, both those guys are great people and they support each other and it's authentic, and I think it starts there. And the relationship in that quarterback room is really, really important."
JJ: You're confident that he'll remain focused on the preparation at hand?
RP: "For sure; that's the person he is, no question. I have no doubt. He's a competitor, he's a true pro, he's grown a lot over the last four years. I thought it said a lot on the sideline—and I know Matt talked about it—Foles goes in for about a series, Mitch comes up to him on the bench and says, 'Hey man, you had my back the first three games, now I've got your back.' And I just think that speaks to who Mitch is."
JJ: You had intel obviously from three important figures on the coaching staff that worked with Foles in the past, plus your own scout's eye to evaluate him. So you know what you're getting, aren't you?
RP: "We did, and we're confident in Nick's ability and who he is as a leader. He's proven. Everybody knows he's won at the highest level, Super Bowl MVP. He's played at big-time moments. It obviously helped that our coaching staff has history with him, so we got a feel for who he is on and off the field. And that was a huge part of why we brought him here, and we're lucky to have him."
JJ: Murphy's Law hit, didn't it, with Tarik Cohen unfortunately. Fresh contract, 50 games of durability and then a fair catch ends his season. How'd that hit you?
RP: "It's a tough loss, and that's why that win was so emotional last week. He was such a dynamic player for us, and not just on offense but on special teams. He hasn't missed a single game in his career. But it's tough to see a guy go down, especially [because of] what he means to our team. He's the Energizer Bunny, he's the sparkplug for our team. I just love him as a person and love him as a player, but we're confident he'll attack this rehab and he'll come back with a hunger."
JJ: The Hicks-Mack pass pressure combination has really been something to see. They're on that side of the line. Matched up with the Colts offensive line today, do you suspect a gritty trench war, old-fashioned kind of a game?
RP: "Yeah, it starts up front in a lot of areas. I feel like especially in the last two games, our pass rush—our defensive line and our outside linebackers—those opposing quarterbacks have felt our defense, and I think it pays dividends as the game goes on, late in the game. And this is strength versus strength. We feel really good about our front. The Colts have an awesome offensive line, so it's going to be a fun matchup."
JJ: Time for your scout's eye to wrap us up. Let's look at the Wisconsin rookie, running back Jonathan Taylor.
RP: "That's a great pickup by [Colts general manager] Chris Ballard and the personnel department there in Indianapolis. The first thing that jumps out with Taylor is his home-run speed. This dude can run. If he has a lane, he's a major threat. He's also strong. He can break tackles, he can move the pile. But overall, just an explosive running back. He can make you pay. If you're not getting off blocks, if you're getting out of your gaps, this guy can make you pay because he's got explosive speed."