Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy will return in 2021, a league source said Tuesday evening.
The futures of both were in question earlier this season when the Bears endured a six-game losing streak, capped by a 34-30 home loss to the Detroit Lions on Dec. 6. But the Bears won three straight games in December to remain in the playoff hunt, and despite a 35-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers in the regular-season finale, they secured a postseason berth for the second time in Nagy’s three seasons.
They lost 21-9 to the New Orleans Saints on wild-card weekend. But the late-season turnaround, led by quarterback Mitch Trubisky and an improved offense, and a plan for the future likely convinced Bears ownership to stick with the duo for another season.
However, defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano will retire, leaving the Bears in need of a new defensive leader.
Pace has been the Bears GM for six seasons, with his teams posting a 42-54 regular-season record, qualifying for the postseason twice and failing to record a playoff victory.
Pace, whom Sporting News named the league’s executive of the year after the 2018 season, was instrumental in jump-starting a $100 million project to expand Halas Hall, an overhaul that was completed in 2019 with a 162,500-square-foot football operations addition.
Pace’s landmark trade to acquire Khalil Mack on Labor Day weekend 2018 helped spark a division championship season. Without question, though, the defining moment of Pace’s tenure with the Bears is his decision to trade up from No. 3 to No. 2 in the 2017 draft and select Trubisky over fellow first-round quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.
Trubisky’s four seasons were a roller coaster — flashes of brilliance and promise mixed with long stretches of inconsistency. With Mahomes winning NFL MVP honors in 2018 and leading the Kansas City Chiefs to their first Super Bowl title the following season and Watson becoming a perennial Pro Bowl selection with the Houston Texans, Pace’s decision to pick Trubisky has been criticized heavily and has been a stain on his resume.
The Bears’ failure over the last two seasons to build on their 12-4 division championship season in 2018 has also been problematic. Nagy helped spark that run to the NFC North title and was honored as the NFL Coach of the Year.
But his inability to capitalize on that momentum while also failing to elevate the Bears offense or take Trubisky to the next level created two seasons of frustration.
This season’s struggles created plenty of unrest with the Bears following a 5-1 start with a 56-day stretch in which they didn’t win.
In early December, after the Bears blew a 10-point lead in the final 5 minutes and lost to the last-place Lions, they were stuck in a dispiriting six-game losing streak with calls for significant change amplifying from the fan base and outsiders.
The Bears steadied themselves in the final month with encouraging wins over the Texans, Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars.
And that stretch apparently was enough for the Bears to reason they should give Pace and Nagy more time.