Phillips made the announcement at a news conference to discuss the firing of coach John Fox, who was dismissed earlier in the day after the Bears finished last in the NFC North for the third consecutive season.
“When we hired Ryan, we saw the key characteristics of successful general managers in him,” Phillips said. “We feel he has exhibited those traits in his three years as general manager. He’s had leadership skills. He shows a clear vision of how to put together a winning team. He’s always striving to find better ways to get that competitive edge. He’s taken calculated risks in the draft and in free agency, while at the same time maintaining an eye on roster flexibility, salary-cap flexibility.
“He’s identified value at every level of the draft, and, last but not least, got great character, great work ethic. He knows he needs to improve, as we all do. But we see the progress in our roster and we’re confident that that growth is going to continue.”
Pace was hired as the Bears’ general manager in 2015 on a five-year contract. Monday’s deal is a two-year extension of that contract.
“I never feel like it’s about me; it’s about what’s best for the Bears, and if [my extension] allows us to go get the coach that we want, then that’s what I’m for,” Pace said. “It does show stability within our organization, so I just feel very blessed for the opportunity, very honored. Now I have to take advantage of it.”
One of Pace’s first moves was to hire Fox as coach. But Pace moved on from Fox on Monday after the Bears were 14-34 in the past three seasons.
Under Pace, the Bears have endured a string of free-agent misses, including quarterback Mike Glennon, wide receiver Markus Wheaton, safety Quintin Demps, wide receiver Eddie Royal, safety Antrel Rolle and cornerback Marcus Cooper. Wide receiver Kevin White — Pace’s first draft choice in 2015, the seventh overall pick — has played in only five regular-season games.
“I need to point the finger at myself as well,” Pace said. “Our record is a reflection on me as well. But I feel good about where we’re at right now. I feel much better about where we’re at right now than at this time last year, and that starts with the quarterback position. We have a 23-year-old quarterback that we feel very good about that we need to build around. We need to build upon that core, and fortunately we have the resources to do that.”
Pace made a splash during the 2017 NFL draft, trading up to the No. 2 overall pick to select quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Pace left open the possibility of Trubisky, who started 12 games as a rookie with mixed results, having input in picking the next coach.
“That’s something we’re discussing,” Pace said. “I know a lot of teams have done that in the past. That’s definitely something we’re going to look into.”
Pace said that as of Monday afternoon, the Bears had not formally requested permission to speak with any candidate for the head-coaching vacancy. The Bears are expected to submit a request to interview Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, a source told ESPN, confirming multiple reports. Later Monday, a source told ESPN’s Dan Graziano that the Bears have requested permission to interview Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
The Bears say they will move with a sense of urgency, but Pace declined to reveal specifics regarding the scope of Chicago’s search. The general manager did add that he will not cede control of the 53-man roster to the future head coach.
“We’re in a position to aggressively attack this, but today was all about treating this with the respect that it needed to be treated with,” Pace said. “I think these relationships are personal, they’re very deep, so I just wanted to make sure we handled today properly, and that started with John and I this morning.”