When general manager Ryan Pace undertook the job of rebuilding the Chicago Bears roster, his main goal was to find playmakers on defense. The key acquisition during free agency that off-season and Pace’s biggest move was signing outside linebacker Pernell McPhee from the Baltimore Ravens.
The Bears released McPee on Monday following three injury-plagued seasons, but his Bears career should not be considered a failed move for Pace.
In the first year of the rebuild, Pace, head coach John Fox, and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio main goal for the team in 2015 was to return it to respectability. As the team transformed to a three-four base defense, it was McPhee who was seen to be the leader and the main pass rushing threat for the defense. He did not disappoint as he registered five of his six sacks in the first seven games of the 2015 season.
It was those first seven games where McPhee looked unstoppable as along with the sacks, he also recorded an interception and blocked a field goal attempt. The last 10 games of 2015, he failed to make a consistent impact as he struggled with opposing teams neutralizing him along with playing through a severe knee injury.
He only recorded one sack during that nine-game span, but his presence alone allowed others to succeed as linebackers Willie Young and Lamar Houston combined for 12.5 sacks in those nine games. Many believed that McPhee should have chosen to sit and receive surgery to repair the injury, but decided to what till after the season which affected his 2016 season.
After having surgery on his left knee, McPhee did not recover in time and was forced to start the season on the PUP list missing the first six games of the season. When he returned, He did provide a presence recording four sacks and providing help to a Bears pass rush that featured Young and rookie Leonard Floyd. McPhee was deemed healthy heading into the Bears 2017 training camp but missed all of training camp and the pre-season once a physical revealed damage to right knee. He ready for the start of the season and was again an important piece to the Bears pass rush, but did miss three games late in the season with a shoulder injury.
The constant battle with injuries was a common theme for not only McPhee but for the Bears roster as a whole during the Fox coaching era. His signing should not be considered a bad move on Pace’s part because unlike other free agent signing over the last three seasons that failed due to injuries, McPhee showed a dominant impact before being injured.
Although there were no winning seasons or playoff appearances, his career with the Bears should be considered successful because he was a key player in restoring the team’s defense. The Bears from 2015 through 2017 constantly improved their sack numbers every year and were regularly considered a top 10 defense last season. Injuries are terrible not only because it adversely affects a player’s career, but it also costs their team’s of potential success that can be achieved with a healthy roster.