Preps Talk

Frankie O's Blog: Three Wise Men

Frankie O's Blog: Three Wise Men

Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010
2:14 PM

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Of course when doing a blog before a holiday, you have to use it for a theme. Dont you?! For me, this one was easy. Although, I could have titled it: WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES, but wheres the feel of the season with that? You can argue with me later over which is more accurate.

Upon looking at what I wrote at this time last year, besides wincing at the many 5th grade grammatical errors, I noticed a theme: There was utter dismay in this town about the state of the Bears. Actually, thats not enough. There was actual anger in every fan that I talked to at the bar. Three years of not making the playoffs, after a Super Bowl appearance, had ignited the fan base and not in a good way. Add to that the bitter crash of the buzz from Cutlermania from the summer of love in 09, (Liken it to the crash from his sugar and caffeine buzz that Frankie O suffers in the middle of his shift each night!) and that made for a volatile mix for the fan base. Fire Angelo!! Fire Lovie!! Can we trade Jay Cutler back for the neck beard?! O.K., so I didnt hear that third one as much, but you get my point.

Fast forward to now, and a 2010 NFC North title, and how do the three objects of scorn look now?

Jerry Angelo was under fire for his trade for Cutler. He had gambled the future of the organization on the chance to acquire what he felt was a franchise quarterback. 26 interceptions later, some of which were so awful they should have counted for two, the populous were questioning why the general manager had a job. They wanted him stopped so that he could no longer inflict his talent judging acumen on their beloved Monsters of the Midway. At the very least, if he had to stay, he needed to get rid of his choice for coach. So what happened? He kept the coach, and made his best free-agent move: the signing of Julius Peppers. My favorite part of the Peppers signing was that the bonus money was not paid all at once, that the contract could be voided after one year. For a player whose motivation to give his all was sometimes questioned, this would provide the inspiration to have a monster year and he has.

As far as Angelos franchise QB, this has been a different Jay Cutler. His seeming indifference with possession of the football last year infuriated many. His indifference to how everyone felt about his performance infuriated even more. As Ive talked here many times, I dont think that there has been a more scrutinized athlete in this town since Ive been here than Cutler. For many, it is not just about what he does, it is how he does it. That is never going to change. His personality is such that hes going to rub people the wrong way. I think he is starting to understand how his behaviorals are being interpreted, not that I think it matters to him. He understands that the bottom line to him being loved in this town is all about winning. Not throwing 26 picks helps also. His 20-13 TD-INT ratio is acceptable as is his 89.6 passer rating. But more importantly, his 9-4 record and the fact that he is in the playoffs for the first time are going to provide the answer to the question of whether he was worth the kings ransom that was paid to acquire him.

And then there is Lovie Smith. Following in the footsteps of Poppa Bear Halas and Da Coach ensure that the position of coach of the Bears is going to come with ultimate expectations. Not winning it all is not good enough. Being a flashy personality wouldnt hurt either. Well, the last three years had been as excruciating for us as it was for him. Many in this town were baffled as to why he was given another chance to lead this team after three consecutive failures. The most popular conclusion was that the team was too cheap to eat his contract and that we all would have to suffer the consequences. Whether that would be to watch his team or to listen to him describe their performance afterward. What has happened is his best coaching effort since he arrived here, in my opinion, starting with the compilation of his staff. A lot of guys would not feel comfortable with three former head coaches working for them, especially when they knew their head was on the chopping block. But, desperate times call for doing whatever it takes. There is no mistaking the imprint of the coaching staff on this team, from the offensive line play, the play calling and the play of the QB, the additions of the Two Mikes: Martz and Tice, has revitalized offensive football in this town known for just the opposite. Defensively, Rod Marinelli seems more suited to the defensive coordinator position to the guy that was over-matched leading the Detroit Lions. (Whose fault that was is another debate for another day!) Any quality team is going to have a quality leader who is going to do whatever it takes to put every person who is under his charge in a position to succeed. There is no one who has done that better this year than Lovie, and he has an unlikely division title to show for it.

So as we enjoy this holiday season, I say we do so with an eye towards what can happen in the future that is beyond our wildest dreams. Good things can happen in places that we never expected. To prove it we only need to look at the local football team and the three wise men who provided gifts for us all. What a difference a year makes indeed!

High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

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High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

High School Lites featured plenty of great action on Friday night as NBC Sports Chicago had highlights of many of the area's top matchups. Some playoff dreams came to fruition while others crashed and burned. 

Watch tomorrow as the IHSA playoff brackets are revealed tomorrow on NBC Sports Chicago+ at 8 p.m. Be sure to also follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for all of the latest IHSA football scores and highlights. 

DRIVE: Prairie Ridge: Episode 10

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Back of the Yards QB Jeremiah Harris

St. Xavier Team of the Week: De La Salle Meteors

Friday's Top 25 Games

No. 1 Lincoln-Way East 18, No. 19 Bolingbrook 14 

No. 2 Prairie Ridge 55, Dundee-Crown 14

No. 3 Maine South 56, Niles West 9

No. 4 Marist 42, Joliet Catholic 14

No. 5 Lake Zurich , Mundelein

No. 6 Phillips 53, Clark 0

No. 9 Homewood-Flossmoor 50, Sandburg 14

No. 10 Barrington 40, Conant 19

No. 11 Huntley 45, McHenry 7

No. 12 Naperville Central 35, Lake Park 21

No. 13 Hinsdale Central 42, Hinsdale South 14

No. 24 St. Charles North 35, No. 14 Batavia 28

No. 16 Wheaton North 20, Waubonsie Valley 10

No. 17 Crete-Monee 52, Cahokia 8

No. 18 St. Rita 47, Marmion 14

No. 20 Lyons 31, Oak Park-River Forest 14

No. 21 Nazareth 48, Marian Catholic 7

No. 22 Oswego 30, Plainfield Central 0

Mount Carmel 35, No. 23 Providence 34

Other Highlights

Tinley Park 29, Evergreen Park 0

T.F. South 21, Oak Forest 14

Glenbard North 24, Neuqua Valley 14

St. Edward 29, Wheaton Academy 28

Marian Central Catholic 44, St. Patrick 21

Saturday's Top 25 Games

No. 7 Loyola vs. Brother Rice

No. 8 Glenbard West vs. Proviso West

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Theo Epstein answered questions from the Chicago media for more than an hour on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, but the most interesting part might have been what the Cubs president didn’t say, something along the lines of: These are our guys.

Or at least Epstein didn’t give the same full-throated endorsement of The Core that he delivered after engineering the Jose Quintana trade with the White Sox this summer, getting an All-Star pitcher without giving up anyone from the big-league roster.

Whether it’s the way the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs throughout the National League Championship Series that ended Thursday night, the inconsistencies and frustrations during a 43-45 first half of this season or the reality of losing 40 percent of the rotation, you walked out of that stadium club press conference thinking big changes could be coming.

“We’re going to pursue all avenues to get better,” Epstein said.

The Cubs already understood this would be a challenging time to dramatically reshape their pitching staff, with Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Big Boy John Lackey and All-Star closer Wade Davis about to become free agents.

The Cubs don’t really have many (any?) high-end, headliner prospects left to trade after borrowing heavily from their farm system to acquire Aroldis Chapman for last year’s World Series run and get Quintana to help solidify the rotation through 2020.

All of Major League Baseball is looking beyond this winter and preparing for the monster free-agent class that will hit the open market after the 2018 season.

Meaning it’s time for the Cubs to make some difficult decisions about all these young hitters they’ve collected.

“It may or may not be,” Epstein said. “Those choices, they’re not unilateral things. You can’t sit there and decide: ‘Hey, this guy, we’re moving him.’ Because you don’t know what the return might be. You don’t know how the different moving parts might fit together.

“I think going into the offseason prepared to make some tough choices and execute on them — and keeping an open mind to anything — is appropriate under the circumstances where we have some obvious deficits and we have some real surplus with talented players who are really desirable.”

Let’s assume All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, MVP third baseman Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras are essentially untouchable.

The Cubs used the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft on Ian Happ with the explicit idea that the college hitter should be on a fast track and could be flipped for pitching later: Is it time to sell high after the rookie just put up 24 homers and an .842 OPS?

During an exit meeting with Albert Almora Jr., Epstein said he couldn’t promise an everyday job in 2018, though the expectation would be more responsibilities: Think anyone else would be interested in a potential Gold Glove center fielder who’s already playoff-tested?

Do you want Addison Russell or Javier Baez as your everyday shortstop for the next four years? Is there an American League team willing to bet big that Kyle Schwarber will crush 40 homers a year as a designated hitter?

The Cubs have to ask themselves those types of questions, which could mean getting outside of their comfort zone and taking on some riskier pitching investments and sapping the strength that has turned them into the dominant force in the NL Central.

“We’ve really benefitted from having two or three extra — and ‘extra’ in quotes because they’re not really extra — starting-caliber players on the roster,” Epstein said. “That helped us win 97 games in ’15, 103 last year, 92 this year. That’s as big a part of the club as anything.

“Having an Addison Russell go down and being able to move Javy Baez to shortstop — that’s an obvious example of it. But those things show up every week for us. There’s a day where someone can’t make the lineup and someone else slides in and you’re still starting eight quality guys. That’s huge.

“Sooner or later, you reach a point where you have to strongly consider sacrificing some of that depth to address needs elsewhere on the club. There’s no sort of deadline to do that. But I think we’re entering the phase where we have to be really open-minded to that if it makes the overall outlook of the team and organization better.”

Translation: The Cubs are open for business. Make your best offer.