Bears

What Bears will miss conducting 2020 NFL Draft remotely from home

What Bears will miss conducting 2020 NFL Draft remotely from home


At least the Bears got to use their brand-new, high-tech draft room last year.

As part of a massive renovation and expansion of Halas Hall, the Bears built a new state-of-the-art draft room with general manager Ryan Pace's fingerprints all over it. The media got to sneak a peak at it last year, and it’s truly impressive in how it helps, functionally, to conduct a draft.

The size of the draft board, in particular, is stunning. Nobody's squinting at a grainy screen to watch tape of a prospect.

“It's tied into our scouting database, so there's a million things we can pull up on this wall or however you want to do it,” Pace said last year. “The ability to sit in one room as a staff and, really the draft is one thing, but (for) all these meetings. We can pull up multiple things at the same time at our fingertips.”

A player’s measurables, interviews, comps, etc. are all immediately available to everyone in the room, helping foster the discussions that lead to the Bears making a pick. It’s not like the team can’t function without it, but as Pace said in 2019, “It's kind of endless what we have, and I feel like we're just kind of scratching the surface now, and we have the staff to keep on pushing that.”

A year later, the Bears — like every other NFL team — are mandated to conduct the draft remotely from home. No small gatherings in a large event space. No popping over to a scout’s house for a face-to-face discussion. And certainly no congregating around the gigantic digital draft board in that room at Halas Hall.

RELATED: NFL tells teams to keep facilities closed for "fully virtual" draft

On a teleconference last week, Pace said, “Obviously there are some challenges with that.” He talked about the possibility of using the technology in that draft room with a limited number of people or conducting the draft at an offsite location.

It’s clear that nobody — not in Chicago, not in any front office — really wants to do the draft over a Zoom teleconference. But it’s how the 2020 draft will happen, and the Bears are going to have to make the best of it.

The Bears are confident in their ability to technologically adapt to 2020’s unprecedented but necessary way of drafting. Coaches and scouts have remote access to the Bears’ internal video and scouting systems, and one would figure even the most old-school coach or scout has had to become technologically savvy over the last few weeks. 

‘We appreciate the hard work with our IT and video department, they’re studs, they’ve been amazing,” coach Matt Nagy said. “Coaching staff, personnel, everyone’s been working really hard together. It’s been different but unique, and it’s been fun finding out solutions and new ways with technology of how to do things, whether it’s through the draft or coaching staff meetings.”

My thought here is that the Bears should be fine making their 2020 picks from home. That goes for the other 31 teams in the league, too.

But Pace and his front office like to be active in the college free agent market, which is always a fire drill of sorts as the draft comes to a close. And the social distancing and work from home mandates amid the COVID-19 pandemic have lessened every team’s ability to connect with those undrafted free agents. It’ll make things more chaotic for the Bears’ front office on April 25.

“A lot of our 30 visits are guys that we're projecting as college free agents we're trying to recruit,” Pace said last year (all interviews have to be done over the phone or via FaceTime this year). “Us going out to colleges, spending time at their pro days or having private workouts are for those reasons. Building relationships with their agents. Because the groundwork has to be done before then or you're going to lose out.”

There’s often way too much hype over undrafted free agents (Remember Emanuel Hall last year?). But the Bears have found a number of productive players from those ranks. Bryce Callahan, Roy Robertson-Harris, Cameron Meredith, Kevin Toliver II were all undrafted free agents who made it in Chicago, to varying extents. Signing the next Robertson-Harris or Callahan might be a little harder this year.

The draft, though? It won’t be ideal to conduct it from everyone’s individual office or basement as opposed to a buzzing draft room. But that should be fine… so long as no one’s WiFi cuts out.

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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell releases statement on death of George Floyd

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USA TODAY

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell releases statement on death of George Floyd

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement Saturday evening regarding the tragic death of George Floyd.

"The NFL family is greatly saddened by the tragic events across our country," Goodell's statement reads. "The protesters' reactions to these incidents reflect the pain, anger and frustration that so many of us feel.

"Our deepest condolences go out to the family of Mr. George Floyd and to those who have lost loved ones, including the families of Ms. Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and Mr. Ahmaud Arbery, the cousin of Tracy Walker of the Detroit Lions."

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As protests break out nationwide, Goodell said "there remains much more to do as a country and league," to combat racial inequality.

"These tragedies inform the NFL's commitment and our ongoing efforts. There remains an urgent need for action," he said. "We recognize the power of our platform in communities and as part of the fabric of American society. We embrace that responsibility and are committed to continuing the important work to address these systemic issues together with our players, clubs and partners."

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Leadership lessons Ryan Pace learned from time with Sean Payton, Saints

Leadership lessons Ryan Pace learned from time with Sean Payton, Saints

Every organization in the NFL is working hard to adapt their workflows while under COVID-19 restrictions. Rookie minicamps have already been missed. Organizations are still unable to meet as a full team, and that’s obviously a challenge. But Bears GM Ryan Pace may have a leg up due to the lessons he learned while working in the New Orleans Saints’ front office.

Pace joined Mike Florio on Pro Football Talk’s podcast “PFT PM” to explain exactly how that time in New Orleans helped to shape him as a leader, both in “normal” times and times of crisis.

“There’s no excuses in our league,” Pace said on the podcast. “That happened in New Orleans during Katrina-- really every time a hurricane came towards that city, we adapted.

“What I felt from the leadership from (Saints head coach) Sean (Payton) and (Saints GM) Mickey (Loomis) is there was never an excuse. It was: let’s adapt and let’s adjust, and that’s what we did. From 2005 to 2006, I mean that was a major shift in that team under trying times.”

Pace is referring to the Saints firing Jim Haslett and hiring Sean Payton, and installing Payton’s new systems, all while recovering from Hurricane Katrina. The Saints were incredibly successful working through those hard times too, improving from 3-13 in 2005 to 10-6 and NFC South winners in 2006.

Beyond learning to not let hard times affect his team’s success on the field, Pace says he learned a lot about how to run a team from Payton and Loomis.

“First of all, (Payton’s) very aggressive, he's not afraid to make hard decisions. He’s decisive and Mickey’s the same way: aggressive and decisive, no regrets, never looks back, not afraid to think outside the box, but also very conscious of the culture of that team.

“I think any time you drift away from that-- and it’s easy to do, and enticing to do-- but usually when you do that, once you realize you’ve done that to the locker room, the damage is already done. You try to correct yourself or police a player, the damage is already done in the locker room. So I think it’s being aggressive with the moves you make, not looking back, operating with decisiveness, but then being very conscious of the culture in the locker room.

“It’s a fine line. 12-4 to 8-8, it’s a fine line I think, because the people, the staff, the people in your building are conscious of that.”

Pace has certainly acted decisively when building his roster, trading up to draft Mitchell Trubisky, Leonard Floyd, Anthony Miller and David Montgomery.

But he later says, there’s more nuance than simply acting decisively to become an effective leader.

“When you’re making a hard decision, what’s best for the organization?” Pace said. “Not letting your ego get in the way because ‘Hey, this was your idea,’ ‘You selected this player,’ whatever it is, what’s best for the team? And sometimes those are decisions when you have to remove emotions.”

Pace has shown the ability to set aside his ego to make those hard decisions too. Most recently he opted not to pick up Trubisky’s fifth-year option. He already cut Leonard Floyd. And after he didn’t offer Kyle Fuller a fifth-year option, he paid even more to keep Fuller since the cornerback proved he deserved to stay.

“For me, to be honest, I think that’s come pretty natural and pretty easy, and I think it’s because of my experience in New Orleans.”

RELATED: Why Ryan Pace ultimately decided to trade for Nick Foles

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