If you made it this far, you probably had a very good idea who one of the names would be.
Throughout Chicago’s rise to the top in 2018, Ryan Pace was showered with praise. Only 12 months prior, many of those same people were calling for him to be fired. It lent perspective that Pace had truly been through it all.
From ripping the roster down to the studs in 2015 and 2016 to the rapid addition of talent in 2017 and 2018, Pace always stayed the course no matter what happened around him or what people in the media had to say.
Now that we have obvious out of the way, who is the other person who deserves credit for this rebuild?
Is it the coach who brought offense to the 21st century in Chicago, the outside linebacker who helped re-establish the Monsters of the Midway, or the young quarterback who, in 27 total starts, has already thrust himself into the top three signal callers in franchise history?
While all three of these people are worthy candidates, they haven’t done what Pace has in regards to keeping the organization stable through the dark years while also being a trailblazer for what looks to be many bright years ahead.
Well, that narrows it down to three players who have been with Pace since the beginning: Patrick O’Donnell, Sherrick McManis and Kyle Long …
That one probably gave it away, didn’t it? 😉
He was largely considered a massive reach in the draft by then GM Phil Emery, but immediately made a name for himself throughout the 2013 season. His demeanor and attitude on the field embodied the city of Chicago for what proved to be a roller coaster 2013 season.
Long wouldn’t play meaningful football in December for another four years. However, it’s what he did in those four years that cemented him as the person who deserves the most credit for the rebuild outside of Pace.
Despite losing, tension-filled locker rooms in 2014 and 2017, and multiple season-ending injuries, Long never stopped acting, preparing, and performing like a Chicago Bear.
At a time with no Brian Urlacher, Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs, Olin Kreutz, Greg Olsen or Matt Forte to be the voice and leader of the franchise Long stepped up and filled the role.
Even when results on the field weren’t acceptable, Long set a tone both on and off the field.
The Bears had the man upstairs, but without Long, the locker room would have fallen by the wayside. There’s a reason why Long is one of only three players from Pace’s first year to still be on the team today.
Yes, his recently restructured deal is what prompted this article, but it only reinforces Long’s attitude and character.
He helped carry the Bears on the field whether he was dressed or not for five long years, and now he’s putting the money that he earned back in the team’s hands so they can improve as a whole.
Pace may have signed the checks, but without players (and more importantly people) like Long, those checks would have never been cashed.