By Drew Stevens (@lookwhatdrewdid)
It’s as simple as this, Aaron Rodgers.
If you no longer want any part of an organization whose general manager has begun to dig your grave even as you continue to withstand the rigors of professional quarterbacking with flying colors, then you should most certainly look for a change of scenery. You see how well things are working out for Tom Brady after he ended his longterm relationship with New England, right?
He found greener — and far warmer — pastures in Tampa Bay. Now while it may be tempting to move across country where friendlier climates and your childhood favorite 49ers play, remember, that team blew its chance with you years ago. Besides, the coldest dish of revenge you could serve that bay green and cheese gold-colored front office would be aligning yourself with its sworn enemy, the Chicago Bears.
That’s how you retaliate against Brian Gutekunst, who had the audacity to trade up to select Jordan Love in last year’s NFL Draft, and head coach Matt LaFleur, who was a little too eager to co-sign that move and chose Mason Crosby’s leg, not your invaluable arm, when it mattered most. After all, when you have a chance to really stick it to your ex you don’t date a stranger. You round the bases with the best friend.
Think about it.
Not only would you move from the hallowed ground at Lambeau Field to that at Soldier Field, but you’d also go from being one of the city’s most hated visitors to one of its most beloved residents a la Dennis Rodman.
Plus, you love it here. Or at least that’s what I took from how you talked about the chills you feel before game time listening to both Jim Cornelison belt out the national anthem and Bears fans equally resounding reaction. “Those tingles over the years have made that place a really special environment,” you said in December. “And I do have a lot of respect for the organization, the fan base, their team.”
And we for you, albeit begrudgingly.
But you can’t really blame us for that though, can you? I mean, you did author a 35-16 beat down with your 240 yards and four touchdowns just a few days after speaking so highly of practically all things Chicago. Not to mention that was the 10th victory of your career in the Windy City in the 13 times you’ve played here. Hard feelings are even harder to shake when they’re mixed with the envy of watching your arch-rival swap one hall-of-fame signal caller for another while our carousel of mediocrity at that position continues to turn nonstop.
You can change that. You can rip that ride from its lousy rails. It’ll take some convincing, maybe even a little acting on your part. You’re pretty believable in those State Farm commercials. How good are you at faking or threatening retirement?
As far as compensation goes, tell Gutekunst we can offer the 20th overall pick in this year’s draft and future first-round picks in each of the next two as well. There figures to be a nice crop of blue chip offensive lineman this summer. Something for him to keep in mind given his franchise left tackle, David Bakhtiari, will be playing the rest of his career on a surgically-repaired knee. Also, considering how Kevin King had two touchdowns scored on him and drew a crippling defensive pass interference penalty that essentially robbed you of the chance to play in your second Super Bowl, it seems an upgrade at cornerback is in order. We’ve got a promising one in Jaylon Johnson he might be interested in, too.
If that package doesn’t move him, perhaps we can throw in the tag-and-trade of Allen Robinson. We’d much rather have the two of you here, but if we must sacrifice our most lethal offensive threat then so be it. You’re that special to us. Even today, just a handful of months from beginning your 17th year in the NFL.
Look. Breaking up is hard. There’s no two ways about it. But once you finish sopping up the best comfort food our city has to offer, you’ll adjust. You’ll see that while the sum of the Bears’ current weapons don’t yet compare to that of Davante Adams, Aaron Jones and Robert Tonyan, you’ve had far less to work with in your career than David Montgomery, Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney.
None of this is to say you’d find the type of immediate success that Brady’s found with the Buccaneers. What it does mean is your arrival would, quite frankly, send an already rabid fanbase over the moon; push our mockery of a front office into credible standing; and our overworked defense into more favorable situations.
If nothing else, how satisfying would it be to flip the league’s oldest rivalry on its head, to force Gutekunst and LaFleur to forever rue the day they chose Love?
In Green Bay you had to escape the shadow of Brett Farve — who, against conventional wisdom, was cast out to the Jets of all teams after reaching near-deity status as a Cheeshead, his association with the Packers being the only one that can rival yours post-Bart Starr. Here, in Chicago, you’d cast a shadow as far as our franchise’s list of starting quarterbacks is long before you even threw your first pass in dark navy and orange.
The offseason is long. Our patience for a player your caliber has been woefully longer.
Just give it some thought.
Not much can be gleamed yet from the reign of new Chicago Bulls Vice President of Basketball Operations Arturas Karnisovas, but it seems clear he works on his own schedule.
So resigned was I to AK’s deliberative process in deciding the ultimate fate of the woefully over-his-head and now former Bulls head coach Jim Boylen, a process that was seemingly extending into the next calendar year, that Friday’s news of Boylen’s dismissal was as astounding as it was pleasing to a widely grouchy fanbase of Bulls fans.
At the risk of toppling over in my chair and getting a deserved razzing from my co-workers, I slid forward in my chair with my mouth fully agape as I read about Karnisovas ending months worth of speculation and plotting a presumably less bumpy course for the franchise in casting the oft-lampooned Boylen by the wayside with his time clock in tow.
In the rear view, too, is the excuse of playing for a bungling coach who owns the second-worst winning percentage in team history, maintained a choppy relationship with his players and whose blue-collar brand of quirkiness — Boylen often called timeouts in the closing moments of games that were already decided and infamously installed an old-school time clock in the Bulls’ practice facility in October to better keep track of when players were punching in and out of work — is probably better suited for the collegiate ranks from which he came.
With the perceived hindrance to player development and team success now discarded at the coaching level, the stakes have been raised as high as the United Center rafters for a team whose players are still under appraisal and include few cut from the hybrid cloth of which Karnisovas helped fashion the Denver Nuggets during his tenure as a front-office executive in the Mile High City.
“Obviously, I like high pace. Moving the ball,” said Karnisovas at his introductory press conference back in April. In his last position as general manager in Denver, Karnisovas built one of the most admired rosters currently in the NBA, including all-NBA first teamer Nikola Jokic, stud point guard Jamal Murray and NBA all-Bubble second team forward Michael Porter Jr.
“We were able to be a very good passing team in Denver. It’s a very entertaining brand of basketball. I like multi-positional players. I like guys with high-basketball IQ that play off each other.”
With that in mind, Boylen, who complied a 39-84 record across two seasons, was an obvious domino to fall in AK’s restructuring of management in Chicago. Surely, he won’t be the last to fall either.
The tip-off of the 2020-2021 season — whether it takes place inside a bubble, or coincides with the upcoming holiday season or both — will activate a much different time clock than the one hung in the Advocate Center as individual improvement and overall fit are weighed just as heavily as wins and losses.
While key players Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Kris Dunn, Otto Porter Jr., and Chandler Hutchison have all missed significant time in each of the past two seasons, only so many concessions can continue to be made for injury or the failings of a former coach to cultivate wholesale player development.
Most notable is Markkanen, whose production shrunk back toward his rookie output. The third-year forward-center, who played in 50 of a possible 65 games and averaged 14.7 points in 29.8 minutes on the floor, will enter the final year of his rookie deal next season and would be a restricted free agent in 2021.
With a new-fangled off-season just around the corner, whoever Karnisovas and also newly-hired general manager Marc Eversley choose as Boylen’s replacement will likely be asked to cook with the same ingredients that resulted in the bitter taste of exclusion from the NBAs restart and a third consecutive absence from post-season contention.
Whether it be rumored candidates Kenny Atkinson, Ime Udoka, Wes Unseld Jr., Adrian Griffin, or Darvin Ham, it’s imperative that the Bulls’ next head coach extract every ounce of potential from an undeniably talented, yet still largely unproven, core of players.
A duty which, among others, proved too difficult for the former coach.