Ryan Pace wasn’t out of work for long. The former general manager of the Bears has been hired by the Falcons under the title of senior personnel executive, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (Twitter link).
At 37, Pace was the youngest GM in the NFL when he was hired in 2015, taking over for Phil Emery. His first major move was hiring John Fox as the team’s new head coach, beginning a three-year stretch that saw the team finish in the basement of the NFC North each campaign and produced the second-lowest winning percentage (.292) in franchise history. Fox was fired, but Pace received a two-year extension.
The 2018 season was a different story, as new HC Matt Nagy led the team to a 12-4 record and a division title, helped in large part by 2017 draftee quarterback Mitch Trubisky and offseason trade acquisition Khalil Mack. Pace was named Executive of the Year as a result of the team’s success. Things started to go south from that point on, though, as another playoff appearance in 2020 couldn’t outweigh Trubisky’s shortcomings. Speculation steadily increased that he and Nagy were on the hot seat heading into 2021.
As deep into this past season as November, it was believed that Pace’s job in Chicago could be safe. However, Pace was indeed fired, along with Nagy, after the regular season ended with the team going 6-11, albeit with promise in the form of rookie QB Justin Fields. The pair have been supplanted by highly-regarded replacements in GM Ryan Poles and HC Matt Eberflus.
By joining the Falcons, Pace will reunite with GM Terry Fontenot. The two worked together in New Orleans, the only franchise either had worked for prior to their respective GM hires. That familiarity will help them re-shape a roster facing numerous cap troubles and, sometime as early as this offseason, the need for a new QB. Pace could play a significant role in helping Atlanta get back in contention in what could be a wide-open NFC South.