Chicago Sports Exchange: “Slimy” Performance Bounces Bears Out of Playoffs

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?

With no additional loopholes or fluky scenarios left to exploit, a season wound around disappointment, obstinacy and infuriating mediocrity met its anticipated undoing at the hands of the New Orleans Saints Sunday. 

A 21-9 defeat as one of the two first-ever seventh seeds to qualify for the postseason now in their rearview, the Bears trudge into an off-season in which solutions to their middling ways won’t be easy to find. 

Particularly as this organization embarks on its fifty-eleventh attempt to find a franchise quarterback. 

SELL – Bears Don’t Measure Up, But Nickelodeon is Impressed

If that Nickelodeon simulcast was truly meant to teach youngsters the game of football, the Bears offered very little in the way of sound tutelage. 

Except for maybe in how not to win an NFC Wild Card game. 

Painfully conservative play calling, inexplicable lapses in discipline and stone-handed receiving engulfed the Bears’ 21-9 loss to New Orleans and made for another shameful presentation in front of company — this time on dual national television broadcasts. 

Even with Javon Wims’ miserable mishandling of a sure-touchdown on a perfectly executed trick play (not to mention a beautifully thrown pass on one of few occasions Mitch Trubisky was given clearance release a deep toss), things didn’t begin in altogether ominous fashion. To secure a takeaway, hold the volatile Saints offense to just seven points and carry a manageable four-point deficit into halftime, thoughts of a monumental upset were still within reason. 

Only continued offensive ineptitude and, perhaps, the inevitable consequences of fielding a defense without Roquan Smith, Jaylon Johnson and Buster Skrine followed them out of the locker room. So too did absent mindedness as Anthony Miller was ejected for punching C.J. Gardner Johnson and Eddie Jackson escorted the Saints to a two-score advantage after jumping offsides on a fourth-and-three in the red zone.

At the onset of their final drive, the Bears still had just three points and hadn’t yet recorded a third-down conversion. That possession, the game and their season ended with Jimmy Graham’s spectacularly inconsequential 19-yard, one-handed touchdown grab.

Trubisky, who threw for 199 yards on 19-of-29 passing with that one garbage time score, fell well short of manning the deep playoff run that would’ve reportedly swayed general manager Ryan Pace to reconcile his decision not to extend the former second overall pick for whom he surrendered major draft capital. Nor was he given much chance to do so, even as both his future with the team and its playoff life hung in the balance. 

As a result, a job under center in white, burnt orange and navy blue likely won’t present itself this off-season. 

In flippant fashion, Trubisky was voted Nickelodeon’s Most Valuable Player after the game. While Trubisky may attract the brunt of Internet jokes, the Bears as a whole haven’t done much to warrant being taken serious either. 

BUY – Bulls Take Hits But Compete Against Contenders

Has a team ever instilled this much confidence in its fanbase with three straight losses?  

These are certainly not the same Bulls (4-7) who offered little resistance — or counterpunches — to the haymakers thrown from Atlanta and Indiana at the start of the season two weeks ago. In that span of time they’ve gone from looking helpless and heartless to scrappy and saucy. 

And it’s damn good to see them here. 

Watching Zach LaVine score in bunches, Coby White and Wendell Carter Jr. set career highs as they settle into redefined roles, and Patrick Williams continue to take the challenge of guarding the league’s elite head-on is fun, too.

A few more favorable bounces or plays would’ve set the stage for an all-out commencement ceremony. 

Had Carter Jr. ventured higher in defense of the screen to discourage Sacramento’s Buddy Hield from launching what was essentially a death knell, the Bulls may have jumped above .500 for the first time in nearly four years. 

Had LaVine nailed a midrange jumper like several others that left his fingertips for the bottom of the net, the Bulls may have upset the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Had sloppy ball handling or a levee-breaking third-quarter been mitigated against the Los Angeles Clippers Sunday, the Bulls may have even clinched a sweep of their four-game trek out West. 

Games aren’t won or lost in singular instances, obviously. But given how the Bulls won a slugfest in Portland to open the trip and that those aforementioned moments could even be extrapolated from the crunch times of recent contests is a testament to their competitive awakening. And that says nothing of them showing this fight in the absence of Lauri Markkanen (health and safety protocol), Tomas Satoransky (COVID), Chandler Hutchison (COVID), Ryan Arcidiacono (health and safety protocol), and Otto Porter Jr. (back spasms). 

Growing pains will continue. More lessons will be taught; namely how turnovers, leaky defense and spotty execution can ruin otherwise attractive performances. But as long as they’re balanced with steady development and, more importantly, continued inspired play, Bulls fans have good reason to be optimistic. 

HOLD – With Opener Looming, Hawks Struggle Filling Former Big Names

Expectations may be wanting, but the Blackhawks are not without juicy storylines ahead of Wednesday’s season opener at defending champion Tampa Bay. 

While the losses of Jonathan Toews, Kirby Dach and Alexander Nylander defined their offseason, how head coach Jeremy Colliton adjusts to life without his two best centers and who steps up in their absence will write the story of their 2021 campaign. 

There’s also the question of who will plug the still-gaping hole that was dug when executive Stan Bowman chose not to resign two-time Stanley Cup winning goalie Corey Crawford, who retired Friday and is the third winningest goaltender in franchise history. 

According to Natural Stat Trick, the Hawks brought up the rear in shots against (34.82), scoring chances against (30.22), high danger chances against (12.91), and expected goals against (2.64) during 5-on-5 play per 60 minutes last season. Whomever gets the first crack — whether it’s Collin Delia or Malcolm Subban — will be undertaking a foreign responsibility as a team’s foremost goalie.

Following another match-up with the Lightning Friday, the Blackhawks will play a pair of games against Florida then return home to host Detroit. 

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