Chicago Sports Exchange: It’s Hard For Cub Fans To Say Goodbye, Bulls Fans To Say Hello

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.

Ok?

Cub fans bid adieu last week to the piece de resistance of their team’s revival while Bulls enthusiasts — mostly — welcomed a player they hope will help fuel their own team’s resurgence. 

At the same time, while bestowed a break from their bungling team, Bears supporters were no less ornery. Their aggravation was simply redirected from those on the field and behind the sideline to the person who oversees it all. 

Such was the week within the Chicago sports landscape. 

HOLD – AK Staying Low, Building With Sensible Moves

Arturas Karnisovas is nothing if not forthright.

A champion of offensive fluidity and positional versatility, the Chicago Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations stuck at No. 4 in last week’s NBA draft and landed on near-complete unknown Patrick Williams rather than the idea of trading up for one of the three more conspicuous players selected ahead of him on draft night. Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman and LaMelo Ball each possess a singular skill that’s more spectacular than any within the 19-year-old’s repertoire. Yet neither Edwards, Wiseman nor Ball project to be as multi-functional as the former Florida State Seminole and ACC Sixth Man of the Year. 

By that same token, it made sense that Karnisovas plucked well-rounded veteran Garrett Temple from the very free-agent pool into which he pushed the more defensive-minded Kris Dunn, who is now a reported Atlanta signee. So too, did AK’s decision to extend a qualifying offer to Denzel Valentine who, like Temple, can shoot, pass and contribute to solid team defense.

Every move Karnisovas has made to this point jives with his basketball philosophy. They also seem to imply his vote of confidence in either the playmaking of Coby White, the underachieving but uber talented tandem of Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr., or both. The latter is contingent upon Williams and his degree of resiliency, especially considering his rookie campaign will commence without the benefit of a single summer league exhibition.

Patrick Williams’ full potential on display in pickup footage (NBA Sports Chicago)

Forged in fire or not, Williams is unlikely to receive much empathy from a fan base that emitted more apathy than applause in response to his arrival in Chicago. Some even likened the expense of a lottery pick on a non-starter to the blunders of draft’s past. 

But given that previous management once pledged to implement a run-and-gun style of play then proceeded to add aging guards Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo to a Jimmy Butler-led team, the symmetry between the words and actions of this new regime is refreshing.

For that alone Karnisovas deserves the benefit of the doubt, at least for now.

SELL – Not Much Is Certain As Cubs Step Out in Post-Epstein Era

It’s no longer a matter of if, but when — and to what depths — will the Chicago Cubs eventually bottom out now that Theo Epstein has stepped down as president of baseball operations for a team expected to also part ways with the bulk of its core. 

The fact that the North Siders’ rebound will be expected to last a fraction of the time it took the lovable losers to turn lauded contenders has as much to do with Epstein as the more than a lifetime’s length of championship droughts he helped undo. 

To his successor and curse-reversing partner in crime, Jed Hoyer, Epstein leaves behind a Cubs team that won the NL Central last year and more regular season games than every team not based in Los Angeles and Houston since 2015. Hoyer also inherits the unpleasant responsibility of making decisions with long-term ramifications this winter.

Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, and Kyle Schwarber will hit the free-agent market after next season. Wilson Contreras will do so the year after. One-time MVP Kris Bryant is already being thirsted over by opportunists in D.C.

In fact, rival executives believe each of the former World Series cogs could be moved this off-season, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

“They seem to think a heavy restart could be in order,” one NL executive said. “Won’t be easy, though, because of the money their guys are set to make. If someone can extend Bryant or Baez, they are probably still pretty good gets.”

The same will be said for whatever organization to which Epstein next hitches his transformative set of organizational talents. 

SELL – Rested Bears Look To Match Pack, Outlook is Doubtful

It’s conceivable that any festering outrage to have befallen Chicago Bears fans over the course of the past win-less month has mutated to utter despair as the NFC North’s leaders loom from their perch in Wisconsin, ready to exhibit a reality check at the end of a merciful bye week.

After all, it’s the two contests against Green Bay that appear to be the least winnable of the six remaining on this season’s docket.

That’s owed in full to the Bears’ dwelling as far below the line of demarcation separating offensive mediocrity from excellence as the Packers are coasting above it.

Not that Aaron Rodgers will run roughshod over a defense that has yet to allow more than 26 points and — save for the first Monday Night Football debacle of the season against the Rams — kept the offense within one score of their opponents in all the recent losses. But Chicago can only counter with an offense that finds pay dirt at a slightly higher clip than the winless New York Jets — contributions from the team’s other two phases will be at a premium.

That too is a tall order for both a defensive unit that’s converted just one of its 11 takeaways into a touchdown and a special teams group that, until Cordarrelle Patterson’s NFL record-tying kickoff return against Minnesota, had not itself ventured into the end zone this season. 

While known to sneak victories out from under the nose of improbability on occasion, the Bears would be excused for shocking themselves and most of the Chicago area if they do so again next Sunday night.

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