The Chicago Bears have hired New Orleans Saints executive Ryan Pace as general manager to replace the fired Phil Emery, hoping he can rejuvenate a franchise that has missed the playoffs for the seventh time in eight years.
The announcement on Thursday comes on the heels of a miserable, 5-11 season. The Bears quickly fell out of contention in the NFC North, costing Emery and coach Marc Trestman their jobs.
Pace spent 14 years with the New Orleans Saints, where he was director of player personnel for the last two seasons. Pace also served as the team's director of pro scouting from 2007 to 2012.
Pace joined the Saints in 2001 where he supported the coordination of game day, training camp and stadium operations. In 2002, he became a scouting assistant where he was responsible for evaluating free agents and collegiate players entering the NFL Draft.
During his time with the club, the Saints compiled a 115-93 record, reached the playoffs five times, won three division titles, played in two NFC Championship games and won the franchise's first Super Bowl title.
Pace is a native of Flower Mound, Texas. At the age of 37, Pace will be the youngest general manager in the league. He played football at Eastern Illinois University as a defensive end, served as team captain his senior year and graduated with a marketing degree.
His former football coach, Roy Wittke, said he's a straight shooter with an unmatched work ethic.
"He was a young man that made the most of the physical tools that he had, but was a guy that did a great job in the classroom. Extremely bright and a very positive guy that was in some ways a natural leader," Wittke said.
After college, Pace went to work for the New Orleans Saints. His position with the Bears will be his first career move away from Louisiana.
Wittke said Pace is a guy that will never forget where he came from. In fact, he returned to Eastern Illinois University a handful of times to speak with students about his career.
"He's a tireless worker. He's an individual that will be very honest. Transparent would be a good word to use too. He's not an ego guy," Wittke said.?The Bears officially introduced Pace at an 11 a.m. press conference on Friday.