As crazy as it sounds did rookie Darnell Mooney save Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace’s jobs this year?
When asked why he believed that Nagy and Pace were making meaningful progress towards winning a Super Bowl, George McCaskey pointed to key personnel decisions like drafting Mooney in the fifth round of the 2020 draft.
“We added some more talented players this year,” McCaskey said. “Darnell Mooney is a good example. A lower-round draft pick that Ryan and Matt found, who blossomed this year and became a key part of our offense.
“We need to keep doing more of that.”
Mooney was a big impact player in the offense this year, jumping both Anthony Miller and Riley Ridley on the depth chart. He caught 61 balls for 631 yards and four touchdowns. Those 61 catches broke Harlon Hill’s franchise record for most receptions by a rookie that stood in 1954.
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Realistically, Mooney alone didn’t save Pace’s job. Over his tenure Pace has shown a penchant for picking well in the middle rounds of drafts. Other notable selections include David Montgomery (No. 73 overall), Eddie Jackson (No. 112 overall), Tarik Cohen (No. 119 overall) and Bilal Nichols (No. 145 overall). Up until the tail end of this season, Javon Wims (No. 224 overall) looked like a steal, too.
But for every great middle-round pick, there’s an awful early-round pick to negate it. Sure, Roquan Smith (No. 8 overall) showed the makings of a cornerstone player after a breakout 2020 campaign. But Mitchell Trubisky (No. 2 overall), Kevin White (No. 7 overall), Leonard Floyd (No. 9 overall) were all busts. When you have the opportunity to pick in the top-10, you’ve got to hit on an impact player. Unfortunately for the Bears, Pace whiffed on three out of his four chances.
But if there was ever a position to make up for those misses, it’s the quarterback position. Again, Pace— and to a degree Nagy— have failed several times to get it right. Nagy certainly had nothing to do with the signing of Mike Glennon, but he was brought in to develop Trubisky. That’s been a flop. Further, he collaborated with Pace to trade for Nick Foles, who looked even worse than Trubisky at times this season.
For all those failings, the pair will get the chance to collaborate again to fix the quarterback position. Maybe they’ll hit on some more middle-round draft picks, too.