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.
Just know, reader, what follows was written from a leery-yet-still reasonably sunny disposition.
Such is part and parcel of cheering for a Chicago Bears team that, even in surviving five of its first six contests to forge ahead of its NFC North rivals, owns the record of a legitimate Super Bowl contender but not many other requisite championship characteristics.
As the Bears emerge again as a league talking point, its defense seems to be its only redeeming quality. Sound familiar?
Too often already this season that side of the football has had to save a team holed by both mediocrity and puzzling late-game play-calling on the other.
Matt Nagy twice decided against running the ball on third-and-short plays late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 23-16 victory against the Carolina Panthers. The latter choice had as much to do with DeAndre Houston-Carson’s game-clinching first-career interception as Teddy Bridgewater’s doomed pass two plays later.
A game earlier, it was Nagy’s similarly peculiar play-calling that afforded Tom Brady an unsettling amount of time to quarterback his Tampa Bay Buccaneers down the field. Thanks (again) to Houston-Carson, Brady exited Soldier Field with no more of his league-leading game-winning drives as he entered.
Houston-Carson has made the most of his uptick in playing time for a defensive unit that inspires as much of my anticipation as its offensive counterparts do my angst. I dare not take a frivolous trip to the fridge or bathroom and risk missing Khalil Mack upend the next opposing lineman with a single arm or Kyle Fuller disintegrate a would-be ball carrier.
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In that vein, Mack, Fuller and Co. are entertainers as much as they are guardians of an offense in frequent need of rescue. Still, the defense can double as a safety net but for only so long before its thread — and the team’s current style of winning — wears thin.
Only five teams score fewer points per game than the Bears — on the other hand, only five teams allow fewer points per game. Therein lies perhaps the most damning evidence of this cosmically-imbalanced relationship.
While it was fair to presume Mitch Trubisky’s penchant for toxic quarterbacking would be the hindrance prior to this season, the actual barrier to offensive prosperity has been the half-middling, half-atrocious performances of the group up front. On one hand the offensive line has kept Nick Foles reasonably clean — and Trubisky, too, in the three games he spent under center. Conversely, they’re responsible for a well-below-league-average 90 rushing yards per game.
That group’s uneven play, coupled with James Daniels’ season-ending injury and a finite well from which to withdraw reinforcement, means the fix will likely be an inside job.
“Maybe we run the ball more,” said former Bears linebacker and 2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame nominee Lance Briggs during episode of NBC Sports Chicago’s ‘Football Aftershow.’
“Maybe we commit to running the ball more, you get more help, you get more chippers, you get more mass protection. Those are things you can do moving forward. I think at this point, going out and getting a trade is a reach, so you have to work with what is in your system of your organization.”
The overall record of the Bears’ first six opponents was 15-20. Their next six games are against opponents with a combined record of 19-13, a slate that includes the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football and the currently unbeaten Tennessee Titans as well as the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers.
“The Bears are playing good defense, aren’t beating themselves and keep finding ways to gut out close wins,” said Bleacher Report NFL analyst Gary Davenport. Along with fellow analysts Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski, Davenport slotted Chicago as the 10th best team in their latest NFL power rankings.
“Even if the Bears split that quartet and hit the bye at 7-3, you have to feel good about their playoff chances heading into the first of two against the Pack in Week 12.” he said.
I’ve followed the Bears long enough to have grown accustomed to the perpetual imbalance between their offense and defense.
I’ve also followed long enough to know that when the Bears secure their first 5-1 start since “Gangnam Style” hijacked airwaves, you ride that horse like nobody’s business for the moment.
Even if possible obscurity lurks in the next.