Chicago Sports Exchange: Backdoor Bears Enter Playoffs Less Than Convincingly

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?

Only two outcomes could have escorted the Bears into the postseason Sunday. 

Neither seemed remotely probable.

That the Los Angeles Rams found a way to beat Arizona without Jared Goff and Cooper Kupp — thereby shoving the Bears into the final spot of a seven-team NFC playoff field — just might signal the dawning of a more appealing 2021 than 2020. 

For now the future holds an improbable playoff appearance for the Bears who, while falling apart late in a 35-16 loss to Green Bay, don’t look quite as over-matched against a New Orleans Saints team that needed an extra period to escape Soldier Field with a three-point victory earlier this season and wondering still about the availability of leading rusher Alvin Kamara for the opening round game. 

BUY – Bears Complete (Not Entirely Satisfying) Playoff Run

Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good.

A 35-16 unraveling at the hands of the team through which the path to NFC representation in the Super Bowl runs, turned out to be little more than just another Bears loss and not the last page in the chapter of their turbulent season thanks to a late Christmas gift from Los Angeles. Now, instead of being cast into an uneasy off-season, the Bears (8-8) have an opportunity to avenge their heartbreaking 26-23 overtime loss to New Orleans (12-4) in Week 8 and corral more confidence than their record against winning teams would otherwise warrant.

They’ll also have a chance to make amends for Allen Robinson not touching the ball until there were three minutes left the third quarter, those reoccurring red zone flameouts and not securing three off-target throws from the perpetually precise Aaron Rodgers.

It’s unclear if Darnell Mooney and Roquan Smith will be setting up shop on the mend ahead of the opening round of the playoffs. Mooney left the game in the fourth quarter after snatching his career-high 11th catch. Smith appeared to hurt his elbow in the first quarter and never returned. 

BUY – Bulls Rebound After 0-3 Start

If there’s one thing Zach LaVine can do it is score.

LaVine scored a career-high 29 first-half points and finished with a game-high 39 in the Bulls’ 118-108 over Dallas Sunday. His first-half total was the most from a Bull in 23 years. That number coincidentally identifies the last player to do so.

In helping to lead the Bulls (3-4) to their third win in four games, LaVine also dished  out a team-high five assists in the midst of shooting at a blistering 14-of-25 clip from the field. It was a duel of sorts between he and Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson, who took on the brunt of his team’s scoring duties with Kristaps Porzingis still recovering from off-season knee surgery and the shows stopping Luka Doncic having been a late scratch due to a thigh confusion. The Stephenson High product scored 31 points of his own, including 18 in the first half. 

The Bulls weren’t without their own absences. Lauri Markkanen, Ryan Arcidiacono, Tomas Satoransky, and  Chandler Hutchison each missed their third straight game. Hutchison and Satoransky both tested positive for COVID-19. Markkanen and Arcidiacono remained out while under the NBAs health and safety protocols. 

The Bulls are at Portland Tuesday for the first of four consecutive road contests. 

SELL – Cubs Try, But Can’t Hide Rebuild Plan From Public

Eventually, Jed Hoyer will land on one side or the other of the fence his inaugural decisions as Cubs president have erected under his feet. 

For now, the ambiguity of his off-season moves afford his insistence that a modest retool, not a major rebuild, is underway the benefit of the doubt. 

How the coming weeks leading up to the tentative start of spring training unfold — namely if World Series leftovers Kris Bryant, Javy Baez or the suddenly merchantable Willson Contreras follow the newly departed Yu Darvish out of town — will ground Hoyer and Cubs fans alike. On one side or the other. 

HOLD – Hawks Increasingly Dependent on Strome, Other Young Talent

These weren’t the circumstances under which Blackhawks center Dylan Strome wanted to prove his worth, but compromises to the health of both Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach have obliged the former third overall pick all the same.

Now, a season that had been written off even before Toews’ illness and Dach’s wrist injury carries much more weight and responsibility for the 23-year-old, who after publicly coveting a pay raise got his on Sunday with a 2-year, $6 million extension.

Though he isn’t expected to entirely level out the absences of the future Hall of Famer and evolving cornerstone, Strome can keep the Blackhawks from completely crashing and burning. Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane, especially, score more goals when sharing the ice with the proficient playmaker who has just been thrust into the role of the team’s top center. 

Strome’s presence also tends to equate to more scoring opportunities for Hawks opponents. But hey, there’s a reason why he was pegged to man either the second or third lines before his abrupt promotion. 

If Strome is unable to answer the bell this season, it won’t be for a lack of opportunity.

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