Chicago Sports Exchange: Dame Time Not Right Time For Still-Learning Bulls

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.


HOLD — Blackhawks Fighting COVID As Much As On Ice Opponents

If the Blackhawks felt like an ant under a magnifying lens at high noon heading into Sunday’s matchup against Columbus, no one could blame them. 

Not only had they dropped their last three games, but they’d also lost five players —  Alex DeBrincat, Adam Boqvist, Lucas Wallmark, Ryan Carpenter, and Nicolas Beaudin — to the NHLs COVID-19 protocol by the time the puck dropped. 

That the Hawks (3-4-3) still found a way to a 3-1 victory against the Blue Jackets proves this is a team that’s not going to play victim to its circumstances. 

“The circumstances, it really doesn’t matter,” head coach Jeremy Colliton said Saturday after practice was canceled to stave off potential exposure to COVID-19. “The most important thing is that we push through.” 

The new-look line of Philipp Kurashev, Patrick Kane and Mattias Janmark paid immediate dividends, as the trio connected on the Hawks’ first and third  goals of the game. Kurashev and Kane had a goal and an assist apiece.

Kevin Lankinen turned away 32 of 33 shots and has now given up two or fewer goals in five consecutive starts after yielding five to the still-unbeaten Florida Panthers in his NHL debut.

Reese Johnson, an undrafted forward who scored eight points in 52 AHL games last season, recorded a team-high seven hits in his own debut. 

The Hawks, who are down two lines’ worth of players when accounting for the absences of Jonathan Toews, Kirby Dach, Alex Nylander, Brent Seabrook, and Zach Smith, host Carolina (5-1-0) Tuesday and Thursday. 

BUY – Parker Signing Has Sky Thinking Big

Before the ink dries on the contract Candace Parker signs with the Sky today, she will have already cemented herself as this town’s most notable free agent acquisition to date. 

As one of only three players — Michael Jordan and Tamika Catchings are the other two — to ever capture MVP, Finals MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year awards in WNBA or NBA history, Parker has the resume to support the weight of that statement. 

And as far as one can tell, the 34-year-old — who is freshly removed from shooting a career-best 54% from inside the arc and a third-place finish in MVP voting last season — also has more than enough in her tank to reinforce the legitimacy of the Sky’s title hopes.

Now, Parker’s homecoming does almost assuredly signal the departure of 2020 standout Cheyenne Parker, who seems all but signed, sealed and delivered to Atlanta. But what essentially amounts to the swapping of a burgeoning star for one of bonafide stature seems a prudent move for a team with two All-Stars — Courtney Vandersloot, 31, and Allie Quigley, 34 — closer to the end of their careers than the beginning.

How long before the bottom falls out from underneath that trios current level of play is a question that won’t have an answer until it’s staring us right in the face. 

For now though, the combination of Parker, Vandersloot, Quigley, Azura Stevens and Diamond DeShields — who, along with Stefanie Dolson, were selected to compete in a USA Basketball women’s national team training camp beginning Thursday — is as formidable a lineup as there is in the WNBA. 

BUY — Stalled Development Has Fire Put Rodriguez Out of Power

On the same day Major League Soccer announced its plan for the upcoming 2021 season to begin April 3, the Fire revealed Nelson Rodriguez won’t be around for what would’ve been his sixth year with the club. 

Rodriguez, who began general managing the Fire in 2015 before also taking on an expanded role as president, resigned from both roles Monday. 

Rodriguez said he and team owner and chairman Joe Mansueto began discussing his future in December. 

“I always tried to do what was best for the Club and I am grateful to Joe for his enormous support,” Rodriguez said before he continued. “The Club is moving in an exciting direction and I wish the team, the staff and fans the very best of luck.”

The Fire and the rest of the MLS, including the league’s newest team, Austin FC, will play 34 matches apiece. The MLS Cup Playoffs will begin November 19,. The MLS Cup will be played on December 11.

BUY — Red Stars Get Schedule News, Will Wait On Young Talent To Report

Chicago’s National Women’s Soccer League team opens training camp today without four of the five players the Red Stars selected in the 2021 NWSL draft, including top pick Madison Haley. 

Haley, who was taken seventh-overall last month, Kelsey Turnbow (18th), Briana Alger (25th) and Channing Foster (32nd) all opted to return to their respective schools this Spring but remain under team control until next preseason. 

Naperville native and 35th overall pick Alissa Gorzak will be the lone Red Star draftee reporting to camp. 

Last week, the NWSL Medical Task Force approved play in home markets for the Challenge Cup that’s set to begin April 9. Following the Challenge Cup, the league’s 10 teams will play a 24-game regular season scheduled to start May 15. The playoffs open Nov. 6.

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