Bears general manager Ryan Pace deserves the blame for Sunday’s debacle in Cleveland. He put together an offensive line that allowed nine sacks. | AP Photos/Charles Rex Arbogast
The unit he created allowed the Browns to sack rookie Justin Fields nine times Sunday.
Ryan Pace should have called a press conference immediately after the Bears’ 26-6 loss to the Browns.
The Bears general manager should have apologized for putting together an offensive line that couldn’t have blocked an offensive tweeter Sunday, let alone a Browns pass rusher. He should have apologized to rookie quarterback Justin Fields, who was lucky to get out of Cleveland with his life after his first NFL start. He should have apologized to coach Matt Nagy, who was taking a public bashing for his play calling against the Browns, never mind that Vince Lombardi couldn’t have succeeded with this O-line.
Pace should have resigned on the spot, but of all the things that weren’t going to happen Sunday – a Bears victory, a good Fields game, a Pace press conference – that was the unlikeliest thing of all. You don’t quit a cushy Bears job. You wait until ownership fires you two or three years too late.
The Browns sacked Fields nine times, tied for the second-most sacks allowed in Bears’ history. Myles Garrett sacked him 4.5 times, which means that Garrett can tell you what deodorant Fields wears and at least the first five numbers of Fields’ Social Security number.
It wasn’t all bad. Fellow Bears quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Nick Foles did have some wise words for Fields.
“They were just telling me there’s going to be days like this and of course games like this,’’ Fields said.
Days and games, plural. With this drafty, threadbare offensive line, it was a perfect, if unintended, observation.
I’m not sure what Fields could have learned on an afternoon like this. How to get your head kicked in? What the sky looks like when you’re on your back?
What happened Sunday wasn’t Fields’ fault, though, remember, his many legions of supporters did say that the kid’s athleticism would help hide the offensive line’s deficiencies. Those of us who argued that playing behind this line wouldn’t be good for Fields’ development or his brain cells were dismissed as misguided or soft. The best thing that came out of Sunday’s game was also the luckiest thing: Somehow, Fields walked off the field under his own power.
How good a quarterback is Fields? Who knows?
But now you understand why Nagy wanted Dalton, sidelined with a knee injury, as his starting quarterback for a while this season. Surely you can see that the coach was trying to protect the Bears’ 2021 first-round pick from a debacle like Sunday. That doesn’t absolve Nagy of his ongoing sins as a play caller, but it does mean that the cleverest plays in the world would have been dandelion puffs against the Browns’ cruel pass rush. Could Nagy have called more running plays for Fields? Could he have called more play action? Moved Fields out of the pocket? Yes to all that. But it’s hard to believe it would have made any difference Sunday with this offensive line.
“We believe in our guys,’’ guard Cody Whitehair actually said of the line afterward.
Early in the game, Fox announcer Greg Olsen, the former Bears tight end, suggested that Nagy needed to open up the offense for Fields. Let his pure talent take over, Olsen said. Immediately after that statement, the Browns sacked Fields twice in a row. Yeah, well, never mind.
As punishment, Pace should been made to suit up, play quarterback and say hello to Mr. Garrett.
Fields completed six of 20 passes for 68 yards. His passer rating was 41.3. He’s clearly limited in his knowledge of the pro game. Also clear: The Bears would have been able to adjust better with a veteran like Dalton under center.
The best play of the afternoon for the offense was a pass-interference call in the third quarter. Throw it up and hope the defense makes a mistake – that’s been the franchise’s fingers-crossed approach for years, from Rex Grossman to Jay Cutler to Mitch Trubisky.
Right tackle Germain Ifedi had a false start on a third-and-1 in the second quarter, which, if I’m not mistaken, was the Bears’ 1,000th straight game of doing such a thing.
“I obviously as a head coach did not do a good enough job of getting this offense ready to go,’’ Nagy said.
The final score was 26-6, which also happened to be the first-down discrepancy Sunday.
“You almost can’t even make it up – it’s that bad,’’ the coach said.
I felt bad for Nagy. He took the blame for everything Sunday. If someone had blamed him for government corruption in Yemen, he would have said he should have spoken up.
Pace, meanwhile, was nowhere to be seen or heard, leaving Nagy to absorb all the hits for an offensive line his general manager gave him. Cruel but not unusual punishment. This is Pace, who is allergic to the media. And these are the Bears.