Bears

Lewis: Marshall embracing leadership role

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Lewis: Marshall embracing leadership role

The Bears are wrapping up their second week of organized team activities this week at Halas Hall and it's clear that one change in particular is having a positive effect.

The arrival of Brandon Marshall has given the group of receivers someone they can use as a learning tool. Marshall has done the things in the league that everyone else is striving to do.

Marshall's talent is undeniable, but what has stood out the most during the two media sessions I've witnessed is that he's very engaging with his teammates. Unlike Roy Williams last season, Marshall seems to embrace his role as the leader of the group and he backs it up with the way he works in practice. He may have made some miscues off the field, but he handles his job as a player like a professional.

Another addition, Jason Campbell, gives the Bears a reliable backup should anything happen to Jay Cutler again. Campbell admitted it's different to be in a purely backup role, but he understands what it takes to prepare for the position. The guy has great size and a strong arm. Following Wednesday's practice he marveled at the way the Bears handle their business on the field and in the meeting rooms, giving Lovie Smith credit for the tone and atmosphere of the team.

One thing that still mystifies me is the stalemate between Matt Forte and the Bears. I heard the grumblings about his knees and maybe that's part of the problem from the team's standpoint, but they still couldn't sign him prior to last season before his most recent injury? Also, he hasn't had an ACL injury which would be considered a much more career-threatening knee problem. The only thing that makes sense is that the organization doesn't feel he's worth what other backs are getting paid, plain and simple. They don't feel they need to pay for the position perhaps because it often is not one of longevity. He will get paid thanks to the franchise tag, but it's hard to imagine that any type of long-term deal will ever get done.

Can the Bears make enough plays to beat the Carolina Panthers?

Can the Bears make enough plays to beat the Carolina Panthers?

Everything changed for the Bears after going up 17-3 last week against the Baltimore Ravens. Mitchell Trubisky’s 27-yard touchdown to Dion Sims was immediately followed by Bobby Rainey running a kickoff back 96 yards for a touchdown, then the offense was bogged down with three fumbles (two lost) on three consecutive possessions. 

But Adrian Amos seemed to seal the game with his 90-yard pick six — that is, until Michael Campanaro ran Pat O’Donnell’s punt back 77 yards for what wound up being a game-tying touchdown after a two-point conversion.

The point is the Bears should’ve cruised to a comfortable win last week; a few critical mistakes didn’t allow that to happen. The Bears haven’t led at the end of the fourth quarter this year, a pretty strong indicator they haven’t played a complete game yet despite having two wins. 

The Carolina Panthers have road wins over the Detroit Lions and New England Patriots this year, and only lost to the Philadelphia Eagles by five points last week (despite Cam Newton throwing three interceptions). The bet here is the Bears keep things close on the backs of a strong defense, but either can’t make enough plays or make too many mistakes to win. 

Prediction: Panthers 20, Bears 16

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

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USA TODAY

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

"Of course," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said in the middle of the National League Championship — he would like his coaches back in 2018. Pitching coach Chris Bosio told the team's flagship radio station this week that the staff expected to return next year. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein didn't go that far during Friday afternoon's end-of-season news conference at Wrigley Field, but he did say: "Rest assured, Joe will have every coach back that he wants back."

That's Cub: USA Today columnist Bob Nightengale first reported Saturday morning that Bosio had been fired, the team declining a club contract option for next year and making a major influence on the Wrigleyville rebuild a free agent. Epstein and Bosio did not immediately respond to text messages and the club has not officially outlined the shape of the 2018 coaching staff.

Those exit meetings on Friday at Wrigley Field are just the beginning of an offseason that could lead to sweeping changes, with the Cubs looking to replace 40 percent of their rotation, identify an established closer (whether or not that's Wade Davis), find another leadoff option and maybe break up their World Series core of hitters to acquire pitching. 

The obvious candidate to replace Bosio is Jim Hickey, Maddon's longtime pitching coach with the Tampa Bay Rays who has Chicago roots and recently parted ways with the small-market franchise that stayed competitive by consistently developing young arms like David Price and Chris Archer.

Of course, Maddon denied that speculation during an NLCS where the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs in every phase of the game and the manager's bullpen decisions kept getting second-guessed.

Bosio has a big personality and strong opinions that rocked the boat at times, but he brought instant credibility as an accomplished big-league pitcher who helped implement the team's sophisticated game-planning system.

Originally a Dale Sveum hire for the 2012 season/Epstein regime Year 1 where the Cubs lost 101 games, Bosio helped coach up and market short-term assets like Ryan Dempster, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija. 

Those win-later trades combined with Bosio's expertise led to a 2016 major-league ERA leader (Kyle Hendricks) and a 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner (Jake Arrieta) plus setup guys Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. and All-Star shortstop Addison Russell.

Bosio helped set the foundation for the group that won last year's World Series and has made three consecutive trips to the NLCS. But as the Cubs are going to find out this winter, there is a shelf life to everything, even for those who made their mark during a golden age of baseball on the North Side.