The New England Patriots do not have an official general manager. Instead, head coach Bill Belichick serves as the de facto GM, due in large part to his past success in matters of personnel.
With Belichick in charge the past 17 years, the Patriots have missed the playoffs just twice and have won four Super Bowls. His history of success is almost unparalleled, which is why he's considered one of the greatest minds in NFL history.
While much of New England's success is the result of Belichick's ability to build successful game-day strategies, getting the most of his own players and exploiting other team's weaknesses, credit has to also be given to his manipulation and exploitation of the NFL's trade system.
According to the Patriots official Web site, since 2000 Belichick has executed an eye-popping 115 trades, with 60 of those coming during draft weekend. He has been far and away the most active decision maker in the league, consistently working trades in his favor.
Every year, Belichick is lauded for his ability to "rule the draft" by taking advantage of the other 31 teams, many of which are run by GMs who aren't anywhere near his level.
Belichick not only beats opponents on the field, he also beats them off the field, using trades to supplement talent deficiencies and stockpile draft picks. As any savvy NFL follower knows, the best teams are built through the draft and no one is a better draft-day builder than Belichick.
It appears Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace has been paying attention to not only Belichick's success but also the manner in which he attained it.
One of Pace's first moves as head man in Chicago was to send Brandon Marshall to New York for a fifth-round draft pick. In training camp, he sent OL Ryan Groy to New England for LB Matthew Wells. He then traded a sixth-round pick to the Houston Texans for TE Khari Lee.
During the regular season, Pace acquired two sixth-round pick by shipping LB Jon Bostic and DE Jared Allen.
This year, he sent TE Martellus Bennett and a sixth-round pick to the Pats for a fourth-round pick.
During last weekend's draft, Pace made four separate trades, two to move up and two to move back, which netted him an extra fourth rounder in next year's draft.
By my count, Pace has executed 10 trades the past 17 months, a frequency on par with Belichick.
Of course, none of this will mean anything for the Bears unless Pace drafts well but in terms of his willingness to adjust his roster through trades, he's taken a Belichickian approach. And if there is any GM after whom to model your roster-building and personnel strategy, it's Belichick.
This wasn't something Pace learned during his time in New Orleans. After becoming the Saints' director of professional scouting in 2007, the Saints executed just 11 total draft-day trades through the 2014 season. At his current rate, Pace will likely have more draft-day trades by his fourth year in charge of the Bears, so it's clear Mickey Loomis did not have a large influence on Chicago's general manager. In fact, you could say Pace learned more from Loomis' failures than he did from his successes.
And don't expect the fun to end just because the 2016 NFL Draft is in the books. Pace was trying to trade Matt Slauson all off-season and will surely be looking to make further moves as the campaign progresses.
It should be refreshing for Bears fans to have a GM who isn't afraid to pull the trigger on trades he believes will make the team better, even if they don't. Just the fact he's open to working the system is a positive, for if he hits on the majority of these trades, he's going to set the team up for long-term success.
In addition, Pace has shown fearlessness on the trade market and a willingness to go head-to-head with the master himself. Of Pace's 10 trades, four of those have been with the Patriots and Belichick. That's like going one-on-one in a poker game with Doyle Brunson, which takes stones.
How the Bears will fare due to this flurry of moves remains to be seen but it's clear Pace is not a sit-on-your-hands general manager, one who has modeled his approach after the greatest mind in NFL history. That can only be a good thing.