John Mullin

Colts losing Josh McDaniels a replay of Bears ’99 saga with Dave McGinnis? Not exactly


Colts losing Josh McDaniels a replay of Bears ’99 saga with Dave McGinnis? Not exactly

The news that Josh McDaniels had stiffed the Indianapolis Colts on the head coaching job and opted to remain as offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, even after the Colts had gone so far as to issue a press release for the formal announcement of McDaniels’ hiring, sparked a spectrum of observations, some involving the Bears and their own top field job.

Does anybody really feel sorry for the Colts, who slunk out of Baltimore under cover of darkness (and ahead of a move by Maryland to exercise eminent domain and make the team stay) and jilted that city for Indianapolis? John Elway had refused to play for the Colts in ’83 due in large part because of concerns about management; only McDaniels knows what part the overall Indianapolis situation played in his change of heart.

The Colts didn’t lose McDaniels because of a premature press release, one that was put out before they had a signed contract with McDaniels, and the Bears did not blow up their hiring of Dave McGinnis back in ’99 because of a premature press release, either, as is sometimes mistakenly reported.

Then-Chairman Michael McCaskey did have a release sent out before a deal had been reached (actually, before negotiations had even started), and McGinnis was highly upset. But he did come in to Halas Hall that day and the two sides reached agreement on a four-year deal. But McGinnis walked away from the Bears for good the next day because of being asked to conceal from potential assistant coaches (which would have included Leslie Frazier and Mike Martz as his coordinators) that there was two-year buyout language in McGinnis’ contract, potentially making the deal just a two-year gig, something McGinnis believed his staff deserved to know before they took jobs and moved families to Chicago.

McDaniels’ reported reasons have included concerns about again uprooting his family, as he’d done to take jobs in Denver for two years and St. Louis for one before returning to the Patriots.

The Patriots aggressively sought to keep McDaniels over the past couple of weeks with contract improvements. Could John Fox and the Bears have held onto Adam Gase as offensive coordinator in 2016 with a similar push?

Not likely. Gase had a chance to be a head coach for the first time in his career, which comes with more of a pay bump than coordinators command. But Gase had been five years in Detroit, six years in Denver, and with three young kids, the prospect of not moving his family might’ve been appealing.

Still, no contest, Miami vs. Chicago? Not so fast. Gase is from Ypsilanti, Mich., and coached in Detroit. He can function with cold.

At this point 25 percent of the Bears’ games in 2018 will be against teams with new head coaches: Detroit (two games) hired New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia; Arizona hired Carolina DC Steve Wilks; and the Giants will play under former Minnesota offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.

The Colts could be something of an unofficial tiebreaker, but maybe not. No clear NFL offensive-or-defensive trend unfolded in this year’s hires. Arizona, Detroit and Tennessee (Mike Vrabel) went for coaches from a defense base; the Giants, Raiders (John Gruden) and Bears (Matt Nagy) went offense. The Colts, tba. Maybe former Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub.

Takeaways from Super Bowl LII: Bears have bigger needs but backup QB a franchise priority


Takeaways from Super Bowl LII: Bears have bigger needs but backup QB a franchise priority

What the Philadelphia Eagles accomplished in no small part because of retread and backup quarterback Nick Foles – winning two pivotal late-season starts, then winning two playoff games to get the Eagles to the Super Bowl, then winning the Super Bowl as the game’s MVP – should serve as a template for the Bears’ offseason work to secure their No. 2 quarterback situation.

The fact that the fate of the New England Patriots franchise turned on a late-round draft choice for a backup quarterback – Tom Brady – just puts another underscoring line for the position. So does what Case Keenum did to get the Minnesota Vikings.

The Bears are set at No. 1 with Mitch Trubisky. But enough of the playoff teams got to where they were because of attention paid to the No. 2 quarterback to serve as an object lesson for any team entertaining any sort of run at a postseason.

No shortage of options for backups to choose from for the Bears this offseason. And the organization clearly understands the need for a complementary presence in the quarterback room (the reason Mark Sanchez remained on the roster all year), and merely adding a just-a-guy accomplishes little.

And while the standard line of “it’ll take some time” is making the rounds at Halas Hall, “time” is a fluid concept (more on that later). Do the Bears deep-down envision a stunner 2018? If the Bears in fact believe that Matt Nagy can accomplish the turnaround that John Fox couldn’t, then the target should be a composite backup quarterback – like Foles and Keenum – who can win in relief as well as mentor/mind-meld with Mitch Trubisky.

That’ll be a philosophical decision: Go for upside, or for security behind Trubisky?

New England may rue the decision to trade Jimmy Garoppolo but in the meantime brought in Brian Hoyer after the 49ers released him after the Garoppolo trade. What the Patriots do with Hoyer this offseason remains to play out, and Hoyer didn’t get a sniff of offer from the Bears last offseason, which didn’t sit well. Never mind that GM Ryan Pace went for a shot at upside with Mike Glennon; it would take a hug to get Hoyer interested in Chicago again.

Plenty of so-what to choose from: Chase Daniel (but he wants to start). Matt Moore. Ryan Fitzpatrick. Jay Cutler (just kidding!).

And then there’s Josh McCown. The only thing “wrong” with McCown is that he’s apt to find a team that grades him good enough to be signed as a starter, whether interim or longer term. He’s 38, but over the recent past, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning have shown 38 to be the new 28.

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There are no “bad” Hall of Fame classes; just doesn’t happen when the discussion is about deciding on degrees of excellence.

But the 2018 class of Brian Dawkins, Ray Lewis, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Brian Urlacher, plus seniors Robert Brazile and Jerry Kramer, and contributor Bobby Beathard ranks with the all-time “WOW!” groups ever headed to Canton, maybe the best ever.

This reporter always thought the ’04 group with Bob Brown, Carl Eller, John Elway and Barry Sanders was the perhaps the best of the small classes. Or at least in a tie with the ’73 class that included Frank Gifford, Forrest Gregg, Gale Sayers, Bart Starr and Bill Willis. The ’13 was the best of the big classes, taking in Bill Parcells, Larry Allen, Jonathan Ogden, Warren Sapp and Curly Culp.

But the group this time – with tipping-point individuals top to bottom – ranks even that. One measure is the level of players who didn’t finish in the obligatory top five: Tony Boselli stands as one of the three or four greatest left tackles, just with the misfortune of playing in small-market Jacksonville; guards Alan Faneca and Steve Hutchinson. All of those offensive linemen will be in as early as next year, but for the time being, limits on how many can go in are the only reason they’re not first-ballot inductees.

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“Dynasty” always sounds dominant, and it is to a degree if only because of the longevity component. But it’s only applicable when championships are won and as such is very much a hard-earned designation. Always realize the thread-thin line between great and near-great, often the thickness of exactly one play. Of the eight New England Super Bowls with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, none were decided by more than one score, and six of the eight were adjudicated by three or four points, the first two of them turning on Adam Vinatieri field goals in closing seconds.

The two the Patriots lost (to the New York Giants) came as the result of spectacular, improbable catches: the “helmet catch” of David Tyree after Eli Manning escaped a swarming sack, and the other by Mario Manningham on a perfect pass with Manningham making the reception so close to the sideline that Bill Belichick lost a timeout challenging the call at that late fourth-quarter point. The Patriots needed the Seattle Seahawks to eschew a goal-line run by Marshawn Lynch and call a pass that Malcolm Butler could intercept to win their fourth Super Bowl with a closing-seconds play.

And New England is far from alone in the close-call-dynasty class. San Francisco got by Cincinnati in Super Bowl 23 only with a flawless 92-yard drive and Joe Montana’s winning TD pass to John Taylor with 34 seconds to play. The mighty ‘70s Steelers won four Super Bowls, two of them by four points over the Dallas Cowboys, in which they broke up an end-zone Roger Staubach pass to save the win (Super Bowl X) and in which all-alone Dallas tight end Jackie Smith dropped a pass in the end zone.

Not that the Bears belong in any talking point involving the phrase “Super Bowl” or “dynasty,” not even the ’85 group since it only even reached one Super Bowl.

No, the real point is that thread-thin margin in a league designed for parity, where you can have a Rams team go from 4-12 to 11-5 with a second-year quarterback and young first-time offense-based head coach (the Bears have one of each of those). You can have the Philadelphia Eagles come off two straight 7-9 seasons, the second a year ago when they finished last in their division, and go to 13-3 with a second-year quarterback.

And then they go and win a Super Bowl with a backup quarterback.

Takeaways from Brian Urlacher becoming latest Bears HOF selection

Takeaways from Brian Urlacher becoming latest Bears HOF selection

Takeaways from Hall of Fame selections the night before Super Bowl 52. Well, one in particular.

Brian Urlacher going into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot does have a certain right resonance to it for this reporter. Having had the good fortune to cover pretty much every snap of his career, sitting in golf carts chatting with him in different training camps over the years, a lot of impressions, snapshots run through your mind.

Remembering the bewildered, obviously a little devastated young rookie going into the Halas Hall back door after the 2000 preseason practice at which he’d lost his starting strong-side linebacker job…

…The very principled guy who held out for a reworked contract early in 2008, sticking up for all players who held out, telling me, “Teams can demand you take a pay cut and then even cut you, even though you have a contract; why are players the bad guys when they demand the teams change that contract, too?” (Bears GM Jerry Angelo thought Brian’s requests were fair and the Bears did re-do his contract)…

…The hurt and angered veteran feeling spurned when the Bears GM hard-balled him in 2013 about one final contract and Brian left the Bears, bitter…

…And finally the nervous guy in his Minneapolis hotel room with his family when the Hall of Fame President David Baker came to inform him that the kid from New Mexico was going into the Hall of Fame. “I heard that knock on the door and everything just settled down after that,” Urlacher said in an interview at the Super Bowl. “I was excited…. Just glad it was over after that.”

[RELATED: Brian Urlacher elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame on first ballot]

The middle linebacker position got its start in Chicago when Bears nose guard Bill George stood up and began operating in a way unlike what the NFL was used to in the middle. So on Saturday it felt somehow as it should be when Brian Urlacher, who redefined the position in his 13-year Bears career, was voted to join George, Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

He’s one of the best pure football players this reporter has ever seen, which might be a little obvious, given that the 48 Hall of Fame selectors just sent him into Canton along with Baltimore Ravens legend-at-the-position Ray Lewis, who played the same position but not the way Urlacher did (and vice versa, to be fair).

Maybe the measure of the man is how much he told me last week that he was anguishing over who’d be his choice to deliver his induction speech at Canton. Far from getting ahead of himself in the process, and laughing that it’d probably jinx things to talk about who his Canton presenter would be – Brian was just genuinely pained at the prospect of being forced to choose just one individual to keynote his HOF moment, because he wanted to share the honor and the moment with so many, and to repay what they’d given him.

“We don’t do it on our own,” Urlacher said after the selection.

Teammates said and will say so many glowing tributes to Urlacher, but it was what was said and done on the football field that formed the greatest testimonials. Defensive end Alex Brown held his feelings back all through a poor 7-9 season of 2009, a season that effectively ended just before halftime the first week when Urlacher suffered a season-ending wrist injury. When the year ended, Brown said what he knew would sound like an excuse but was the truth, that losing Urlacher gutted the team before it really had a chance to get started.

In the defensive huddle between plays, a lot of nasty talk goes on. The late Bryan Robinson, one of Urlacher’s protectors through the latter’s first four seasons, said all the grousing, talking and everything else came to an immediate stop when Urlacher came into the huddle and said one word: “Listen.”

Now he’s in the Hall of Fame, clearly having made a definitive impression on 48 selectors who include some of the most distinguished observers of the sport. Urlacher’s selection did not come easily, with him needing to finish among the top five, along with Lewis, receivers Randy Moss and Terrell Owens, and safety Brian Dawkins, in a class from which as many as 10 more will eventually go into the Hall of Fame.

Urlacher becomes the sixth Bears linebacker to earn entry in pro football’s most honored circle, a group which includes Butkus, George, Singletary, George Connor and Clyde “Bulldog” Turner (who led the NFL in interceptions with eight in 1942).

But nobody played the position, or any of the linebacker positions, like this guy.