Ryan Pace, the 2018 Sporting News NFL Executive of the Year, is entering his fifth season as general manager of the Chicago Bears in 2019. He is the sixth GM in franchise history after being hired on January 8, 2015. The Bears announced a three-year contract extension for Pace on January 1, 2018, keeping him with the club through 2021.
Last season Pace became the third Bears executive to win Executive of the Year honors and the first since Michael McCaskey in 1985.
Following the 2017 season, Pace took the organization in a different direction and sought to find the next head coach to lead the Bears into the future. On January 8, 2018, Pace hired Matt Nagy as Chicago’s 16th head coach. Nagy and the Bears went 12-4 during the regular season and captured the club’s first NFC North title since 2010. Nagy would go on to earn Associated Press and PFWA Coach of the Year honors while setting a record for the most wins by a first-year head coach in franchise history.
With Nagy in place, Pace used all avenues available to help bolster a young and promising roster. He made a splash on the first day of free agency in March 2018, signing wide receivers Allen Robinson II and Taylor Gabriel and tight end Trey Burton. Pace also awarded players such as defensive backs Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller with multi-year extensions.
Pace and his staff kept their foot on the gas during the 2018 NFL Draft, selecting three ESPN.com All-Rookie Team honorees in linebacker Roquan Smith (Round 1, 8th overall), offensive lineman James Daniels (Round 2, 39th overall) and defensive lineman Bilal Nichols (Round 5, 145th overall). He also traded up in the second round to draft wide receiver Anthony Miller (Round 2, 51st overall), who finished second among all rookie wide receivers with seven touchdown receptions. Smith, meanwhile, would go on to record the second-most tackles (122) by a Bears rookie. Nichols made an immediate impact, recording three sacks, while Daniels started the final 10 games at left guard as the Bears made their push to the postseason.
But Pace saved his boldest move for last. With the season opener looming – 8 days away to be exact – Pace acquired All-Pro linebacker Khalil Mack in a trade with the Oakland Raiders, a move that turned Chicago’s already Top-10 defense into the league’s most dominant unit in 2018. Mack did not disappoint, leading the Bears with 12.5 sacks and six forced fumbles as Chicago’s defense led the NFL in takeaways (36), interceptions (27), fewest first downs (17.3 pg), fewest rushing yards allowed (80.0 pg) and fewest points allowed (17.7 ppg) and finished third in turnover margin (+12), points off takeaways (107) and yards per game allowed (299.7). Five days after acquiring Mack, Pace re-signed DL Eddie Goldman to a six-year contract extension to lock down Chicago’s dominant defensive front.
Eight players, including Mack, were named to the 2019 Pro Bowl following the season. Joining Mack were defensive backs Eddie Jackson and Fuller, punt returner Tarik Cohen, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and offensive linemen Cody Whitehair and Charles Leno Jr. Mack, Fuller, Jackson and Cohen also were named AP All-Pros.
In 2017, Pace continued his track record of drafting rookies who make an immediate impact on the team. QB Mitchell Trubisky (No. 2 overall) set Bears rookie records for passing yards (2,193) and completions (196). He also rushed for 248 yards and two touchdowns and averaged 182.8 passing yards per game while completing 59.4 percent of his throws. RB Tarik Cohen became the first NFL rookie since Gale Sayers (1965) to score touchdowns via rushing, receiving, passing and punt return in a single season. He also tallied the third most receptions (53) by a Bears rookie in club history. DB Eddie Jackson finished the season with two interceptions and became the first player in NFL history to return both a fumble recovery and an interception for 75+ yard touchdowns in a single game (vs. CAR, 10/22/17).
After a stellar rookie season in 2016, RB Jordan Howard continued to have success on the ground, becoming the first player in franchise history to rush for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two NFL seasons (1,313 in 2016 & 1,122 in 2017) and also became the fastest player in Bears history to rush for 2,000 yards (24 games), besting Walter Payton’s previous mark of 26. Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, a key 2016 free agent acquisition, earned a four-year contract extension in September 2017 and went to the Pro Bowl the following season.
In Pace’s first two seasons as Bears GM, five Bears were selected to the PFWA’s All-Rookie team (Adrian Amos, Leonard Floyd, Eddie Goldman, Cody Whitehair and Howard), tied for the most in the NFL in that time frame.
In his first season overseeing Chicago’s roster, Pace was tasked with turning over a roster that ranked as one of the oldest in the NFL (average 27 years, 39 days old). He trimmed that average to just over 25-years old in two seasons. The Bears fielded a competitive team, improving by one game over their previous year’s record, despite the youth movement. The 2015 Bears were involved in 11 games decided by one score (5-6 record in those games) despite leading the NFL with nine rookie starters (three on offense, six on defense). The Bears defense improved from 30th in 2014 (377.1 yards per game) to 14th in 2015 (345.1 ypg) despite starting a league-most six rookie starters who combined for 41 starts, second most to the Saints 44 defensive rookie starts.
Pace joined the Bears after spending 14 seasons (2001-14) as a member of the Saints organization, including 13 in the player personnel department. He spent his final two seasons (2013-14) with the Saints as director of player personnel. In that role, Pace helped manage the team's college and pro scouting operations including all facets of scouting and evaluation of college and pro prospects along with New Orleans' roster.
Pace spent six seasons as the club's director of pro scouting (2007-12), which included overseeing the club's pro scouting staff. His duties involved recommending player acquisitions by evaluating the Saints roster and potential NFL free agents, monitoring all NFL transactions, researching possible trade opportunities, assessing player talent from other professional leagues and directing the advance scouting of future opponents. He also helped the Saints prepare for the NFL Draft following the regular season by assisting in the evaluation of top college prospects.
The Flower Mound, Texas native got his start in New Orleans' player personnel department as a scouting assistant in 2002, a role he held for two years before working as a pro scout from 2004-06. During that time he evaluated free agents and collegiate players entering the NFL Draft as well as scouted upcoming opponents. He joined the Saints in 2001 supporting the coordination of all game day, training camp and stadium operations.
Over Pace's 13 seasons in the New Orleans personnel department (2002-14), the Saints compiled a 115-93 (.553) record. Since 2006, the Saints reached the playoffs five times, won three division titles, played in two NFC Championship games (2006 and 2009) and won the franchise's first Super Bowl title (Super Bowl XLIV). The Saints pro scouting department helped build a Super Bowl championship club by using all avenues at their disposal: signing free agents QB Drew Brees, FB Heath Evans, LB Scott Fujita, CB Randall Gay, C Jonathan Goodwin, CB Jabari Greer, WR Lance Moore and DE Anthony Hargrove and trading for TE Jeremy Shockey, LB Jonathan Vilma, LB Scott Shanle and TE David Thomas. Pace has also worked to acquire players such as NT Brodrick Bunkley, G Ben Grubbs, LBs Curtis Lofton, RB Darren Sproles. Over his last two seasons with the Saints their draft classes included regular starters LT Terron Armstead (2013, third round), WR Brandin Cooks (2014, first round), S Kenny Vaccaro (2013, first round) and WR Kenny Stills (2013, fifth round).
In 2008, he was selected by the club to attend the NFL's Stanford Business School's Executive Education Program for Managers. He was a part of the franchise in 2005 while the club dealt with immense adversity having to guide itself through several moves in base operations in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Pace played collegiately as a defensive end at Eastern Illinois (1995-99), serving as team captain as a senior, graduating with a bachelor's degree in marketing.
Pace and his wife, Stephanie, have a daughter, Cardyn.