The Bears have hired Saints executive Ryan Pace to be their new general manager, the team announced today (via Twitter). New Orleans’ director of player personnel will replace Phil Emery, who was let go along with head coach Marc Trestman following Chicago’s regular season finale.
The Bears’ hiring of Pace is a bit of a surprise, after the team also spoke to Brian Gaine of the Texans, Lake Dawson of the Titans, and Chris Ballard of the Chiefs. Ballard was viewed by many observers as the favorite for the job, while at least one report indicated that Gaine would likely be the favorite of Ernie Accorsi, who is serving as an advisor for the Bears during their hunt for a new GM and head coach.
Although Ballard and Gaine were strong candidates, Pace is a highly-respected veteran executive is his own right, spending 14 years working with the Saints, including six as the team’s director of pro scouting before he became the club’s director of player personnel. The Jets were also interested in interviewing Pace for their GM opening, but he declined the opportunity to speak to the team about the position.
With Pace now installed as their general manager, the Bears can move forward with their search for a head coach, which had been delayed slightly because the team wanted a GM in place first. As our head coaching search tracker shows, Chicago spoke to Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase during last week’s bye, and also talked to Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles today. The Bears had originally been scheduled to interview Bowles on Saturday, but perhaps were willing to move it up since Pace’s hiring was imminent — Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets that the new GM sat in on the team’s interview with Bowles today.
In addition to those candidates, former head coaches Doug Marrone and Mike Shanahan have been mentioned as possible candidates, and the Bears have requested an interview with Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, who won’t speak with any teams until Baltimore is eliminated from the postseason. It’s possible that Chicago will add some new names to its list of targets, now that the club has found its GM.