Despite three straight last-place finishes in the NFC North and going 5-11 this season, the Chicago Bears will reportedly bring back general manager Ryan Pace for a fourth season in 2018.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Bears and Pace agreed to a four-year extension, which will keep him under contract through 2021.
The Bears hired Pace to be their general manager in January 2015. He was the youngest GM in the NFL at 37 when he took over in Chicago. His first order of business was to hire John Fox as the team's head coach.
Pace took over a Bears team that went 5-11 in 2014. His partnership with Fox didn't produce the expected results on the field that were necessary for the franchise. They finished last in the NFC North in each of his three seasons leading the front office and four straight years overall.
While Pace managed to keep his job, Fox was a casualty as the Bears fired him Monday.
The failures in 2017 were not unexpected given where Chicago's roster was at. Rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky started the majority of games after taking over for Mike Glennon in Week 5.
Their top two wide receivers from the previous season—Cameron Meredith and Alshon Jeffery—didn't play for them this season. Jeffery signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as a free agent, and Meredith tore his ACL and MCL during the preseason.
Despite those struggles on the field, Bears chairman George McCaskey said at the end of 2016 that the team was trying to be patient waiting for results to improve.
“[Pace] talked from the beginning about how this was going to take time, about how we needed to be patient,” McCaskey told reporters. “I told him I’m not a patient person but I promised him that I would be patient."
Pace went all-in on Trubisky when he swapped first-round choices and gave up three more draft picks with the San Francisco 49ers. Those two are linked now with Trubisky's development becoming the biggest issue for Pace and the Bears' front office heading into next season.
They have money to spend with $47.2 million in cap space next season, per Over The Cap, to make upgrades, and they will also have another high first-round draft choice.
Given the Bears had to announce Pace was returning in 2018, he will have to start showing improvement next season if he wants to continue leading an organizational turnaround, and that will start with his hiring of a new head coach this offseason.