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Rebuilding the Chicago Bears

On Thursday, the Chicago Bears made the first step in rebuilding their beleaguered franchise. The team hired Ryan Pace as its new general manager, a young, energetic Texan who is seen in NFL circles as a top-notch executive.  Pace was the New Orleans Saints director of player personnel before joining Chicago, and prior to that worked with the Saints in other capacities for 12 years.

Pace comes into a job that will get plenty of attention. The Bears are one of the most stories franchises in football but have hit hard times recently, only making the playoffs once since losing Super Bowl XLI to the Indianapolis Colts. Pace’s first mission will be to find a new head coach, and the interview process is well underway.

The Bears have already sat down and spoken with Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, with interviews also extended to defensive coordinator Todd Bowles of the Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Daryl Austin and former head coach Mike Shanahan, according to SB Nation.

The rebuild will undoubtedly take time, effort and patience, something Saints coach Sean Payton believes Pace will exude, per Larry Mayer of the Bears official website.

“He is really good at what he does,” Saints coach Sean Payton said about Pace last week. “He’s a big part of what we do. He’s very talented and I know he has been promoted here a few times, and deservedly so. I get fired up when he comes to see me first thing [in the] morning. His mind is already racing. I know he is all-in.”

Once the coaching staff is squared away, Pace will turn his attention to a roster with more holes than slice of Swiss cheese. The defense was a complete mess this year, ranking 30th in total defense and against the pass. Playing the run, Chicago was 17th overall and 22nd in yards allowed per carry at 4.3.

On offense, the line needs to be reworked while the quarterback position looms over everything. Jay Cutler is public enemy No. 1 on Chicago, but his contract all but mandates a return. Pace’s only hope to rid himself of Cutler would be a trade, but it will be nearly impossible to convince a team into taking Cutler’s remaining $126 million.

When free agency begins in March 10, Pace will be flush with cash. The Bears are projected to be $27.9 million under the cap, according to Over The Cap. With that type of money, Chicago can start reshaping its back seven on defense and the offensive line, perhaps the two largest problem spots on the team.

Bears fans will need to show patience in 2015. Chicago is not likely to shoot up the NFC North standings, with the three other teams all having better quarterbacks and less roster turnover. Pace could do a terrific job, and results might still be slow in coming. However, the rebuild is underway, and that is great news for the Windy City.

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