Bears

Random News of the Day: Shamrock Shufflin' Crew

Random News of the Day: Shamrock Shufflin' Crew

Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Posted: 10:27 a.m.

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

It is said that when you attend a game at Wrigley Field or U.S. Cellular Field, you cheer for your team with 40,000 of your closest friends.

Now imagine that amount of people running through the streets of Chicago all at once (without the beer and nachos).

This Sunday, up to 40,000 runners are expected to file into Grant Park for the 32nd Shamrock Shuffle, the worlds largest 8K road race. The run begins at 9:00am on Columbus Drive at Monroe. The route snakes through downtown Chicago and ends back on Columbus, just north of Roosevelt Road. For those who are Shamrock Shuffle aficionados, the race represents a marathon atmosphere without the knee-melting aftershocks. For some, its the cherry-on-top for a successful New Years resolution that involved getting in shape. And hey, for others, its just an excuse to put on running shoes and dress up like Lucky The Leprechaun.

I have done many of these races in the past and its truly one of those sporting events that has to be experiencedwhether as a participant or as a spectator. Its kind of like the outbound Dan Ryan during Friday rush hour: some take to the roads to compete, and others are there for the scenery. Theres always a lot of jostling for position. You try to make your moves two or three cars (errpeople) in advance and theres a general disdain for people that talk on their cell phone while driving.

(Random thought: what is the point of talking on the phone while jogging? I never understood why people do this: Hi Mom....hhhhuhhhhhhhh....doing........Shamrock..........Shufffle.....whooooooooo.......huhhhhhhhhhow are you? Are you.....going to.....the mall.....today?)

I am by no means Johnny 8K Expert, nor will I ever be. Too many 4am burrito runs have derailed any serious thoughts about contending for prizes. But I have done enough of these beasts to warrant a list of tips to runners, whether theyre novice or rank amateurs. Such as

Dont unveil new running shoes on the day of the race. Period. Hopefully, you will have broken in your race day shoes weeks in advance. You should always wear shoes and clothes that you feel the most comfortable inand are familiar with (Note: This doesnt apply to participants who don Cookie Monster costumes the day of the race. These people are just in a different league, mentally and physically).

Be sure to eat a little breakfast, but dont overdo it. The race is at 9am, so if you down a granola bar at 7:30 and maybe a bananayou should be in the clear. Nothing says pain like running an 8K (4.97 miles to be exact) with a Rooty Tooty Fresh n Fruity in spin cycle in your stomach.

Make sure to get to the race early. Much like the Chicago Marathon, the lead up to the Shamrock turns Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive into a standstill. If you are coming from outside Chicago, plan on getting off the train or securing a parking spot by no later than 8:15am. Youll need the 45 minutes to stretch and to find your starting corral , which is assigned to you when you register. You wouldnt want to run to the starting lineand then run a five mile race on top of it.

Stay in your race corral and dont try to be a heroat least for the first mile. For instance, if youre a C class runner, dont try to sneak up to the A class. Its not allowed, for one, and the chance of you getting trampled increases tenfold. The runners in the A class mean business. Know your limits. And your pace. After the first mile, the pack will loosen up a bit. And remember, you are timed via microchip from the time you cross the starting line to the time you finish.

Watch the bridgesliterally. You will have to cross the Chicago River four times during your run. And if youve ever set foot on Chicago River bridges downtown, you will know that they have the metal drawbridge gratings toward the center. Watch where you step.

Looking to cut time? Dont get caught on the corners. During the first mile, the route goes north on Columbus, then turns west on Grand Avenue. I have seen so many runners get stuck at this intersection because everyone tries to hug the corners to cut time. Staying to the left at this corner is a natural instinct, but it can add a lot of time to your schedule. Remember: you will be sharing the route with thousands of people! My advice is to make a softer left turn and avoid the stampede by the curb. Ditto at the upcoming intersections: Grand & Rush (just after mile 1), Rush & Hubbard, Hubbard & State and especially State & Jackson (just after mile 2).

Stay hydrated. Even if its 40 degrees on race day.

Dont burn out early. I have seen so many runners get hopped up on adrenaline, leap up and high-five the START sign, and then do Carl Lewis-like sprints for the first half mile. Hey, if that rocks your world, go for it! Just be aware that by mile four you might end up like Clark Griswold in Vacation, when he's hallucinating, trying to run across a desert.

And dont forget to check out the Health & Fitness Expo at Navy Pier this Friday and Saturday. If you're participating, you will need to pick up your race day essentials here: participant packets, bags and Nike Technical T-shirts. For everyone else, its a great chance to check out the latest and greatest in footwear, apparel, nutrition and technology. The expo is open on Friday from 10am to 8pm and Saturday from 9am to 6pm.

For additional information, check out www.shamrockshuffle.com

2017 Bears position grades: Management

2017 Bears position grades: Management

2017 grade: D+

For these purposes, “management” encompasses the coaching staff and front office. We don’t need a lengthy re-litigation of the failures of the John Fox era, so briefly: The offense was unimaginative, predictable and unsuccessful; there were too many head-scratching coaching decisions, punctuated by that backfiring challenge flag against Green Bay; the defense was solid but not spectacular; special teams had plenty of highs (three touchdowns) and lows (Marcus Cooper’s gaffe against Pittsburgh, Connor Barth’s missed field goal against Detroit). Fox didn’t win enough games to justify a fourth year, even if he left the Bears in a better place than he found them back in 2015. But that 5-11 record drags the management grade down. 

But the larger thing we’re going to focus on here is the hits and misses for Ryan Pace in the 2017 league year. The hits: 

-- Drafting Mitchell Trubisky. Will this be a long-term success? That’s another question. But Pace hitched his future in Chicago to a quarterback last April. For a franchise that hasn’t had a “franchise” quarterback in ages, what more can you ask for? If Trubisky pans out, nobody should care that Pace traded up one spot -- effectively losing a third-round pick for his conviction in his guy -- to make the move. 

-- Moving quickly to hire Matt Nagy. As with Trubisky, Pace identified his guy and made sure he got him. The Bears hired Nagy just two days after the Kansas City Chiefs’ season ended with that playoff collapse against the Tennessee Titans, and with the Indianapolis Colts -- who eventually got burned by Josh McDaniels -- sniffing around Nagy, Pace made his move to hire a young, energetic, offensive-minded coach to pair with Trubisky. It’s tough to argue with any of the coaching hires made by Nagy, who had a head start on the competition: He retained defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and that entire defensive staff, kept Dave Ragone to be Trubisky’s quarterbacks coach and hired Mark Helfrich to bring some different concepts as offensive coordinator, and hired a special teams coach in Chris Tabor who must’ve been doing something right to survive seven years and a bunch of coaching changes in Cleveland. Like with Trubisky, it’s too early to say if Nagy will or won’t work out long-term, but it stands out that Pace had conviction in getting a franchise quarterback and a head coach who will make or break his tenure in Chicago. 

-- Drafting Tarik Cohen and Eddie Jackson in the fourth round. In Cohen, the Bears found an offensive spark (who was nonetheless under-utilized) who also was a key contributor on special teams. In Jackson, the Bears added a plug-and-play 16-game starter at safety who looks to have some upside after a solid rookie year. Both picks here were a triumph for the Bears’ amateur scouting department: Cohen wasn’t on everyone’s radar (special teams coach Chris Tabor, who previously was with the Browns, said Cohen’s name never came across his desk in Cleveland), while Jackson was coming off a broken leg that prematurely ended a solid career at Alabama. These were assuredly two hits. 

-- Signing Akiem Hicks to a four-year contract extension. The Bears rewarded Hicks a day before the season began; Hicks rewarded them with a Pro Bowl-caliber season (despite him only being a fourth alternate) and was the best player on the team in 2017. 

-- Signing Charles Leno to a four-year contract extension. Leno may not be an elite tackle, and still has some things to clean up in his game, but he’s 26 and his four-year, $37 million contract is the 14th-largest among left tackles (for what it’s worth, Bleacher Report ranked Leno as the 20th best left tackle in the NFL). The Bears believe Leno is still improving, and could turn that contract into a bargain in the future. But this is important to note, too: Players notice when a team rewards one of its own, especially when that guy is a well-respected former seventh-round draft pick. 

-- Signing Mark Sanchez to a one-year deal. This wasn’t a miss, certainly, and while it’s not much of a “hit,” Sanchez was exactly what the Bears wanted: A veteran mentor to Trubisky. While Sanchez was inactive for all 16 games, he and the No. 2 overall pick struck up a good relationship that makes him a candidate to return in 2018 as a true backup. 

-- Releasing Josh Sitton when he did. Whether or not the Bears offensive line is better off in 2018 is a different question, but file cutting Sitton on Feb. 20 -- when the team had until mid-March to make a decision on him -- as one of those things that gets noticed by players around the league. 

-- Announcing the expansion to Halas Hall. The plan has Pace’s fingerprints on it, and should help make the Bears a more attractive destination to free agents in 2018 and beyond. 

And now, for the misses:

-- Signing Mike Glennon. That completely bombed out. While the Bears weren’t hurting for cap space a year ago, and Glennon’s contract essentially was a one-year prove-it deal, his play was so poor that he was benched after only four games -- when the initial plan was for him to start the entire season to give Trubisky time to develop. The wheels came off for Glennon on his seventh pass in Week 2, when after completing his first six he threw the ball right to Tampa Bay’s Kwon Alexander for an interception from which he never seemed to recover. He’ll be cut sometime soon. 

-- Signing Markus Wheaton. After signing a two-year, $11 million deal in the spring, Wheaton struggled to stay healthy, with an appendectomy and finger injury limiting him in training camp and the early part of the season, and then a groin injury knocking out a few weeks in the middle of the season. When Wheaton was healthy, he was ineffective, catching only three of his 17 targets. That places him with eight other players since 1992 who’ve been targeted at least 15 times and and caught fewer than 20 percent of their targets. He’s another one of Pace’s 2017 free agent signings who’s likely to be cut. 

-- Signing Marcus Cooper. The Bears thought they were signing an ascending player who picked off four passes in 2016 and would be a better scheme fit in Chicago than he was in Arizona. Instead, Cooper was a liability when he was on the field and didn’t live up to his three-year, $16 million contract (with $8 million guaranteed). Dropping the ball before he got in the end zone Week 3 against Pittsburgh was a lowlight. The Bears can net $4.5 million in cap savings if he’s cut, per Spotrac. 

-- Signing Dion Sims. Sims isn’t as likely to be cut as Glennon and Wheaton, and even Cooper, but his poor production in the passing game (15 catches, 29 targets, 180 yards, one touchdown) puts a spotlight on how the Bears evaluate how he was as a run blocker in 2017. If that grade was high, the Bears could justify keeping him and not garnering a little more than $5.5 million in cap savings. If it was low, and the Bears are confident in Adam Shaheen’s ability to improve, then Sims could be cut as well. 

-- Signing Quintin Demps. The loss here was mitigated by the strong play of Adrian Amos, but Demps didn’t make much of an impact on the field before his Week 3 injury besides getting plowed over by Falcons tight end Austin Hooper in Week 1. He’d be a decent guy to have back as a reserve given his veteran leadership -- he was a captain in 2017 -- but given how well Amos and Eddie Jackson worked together last year, he’s unlikely to get his starting spot back in 2018. 

-- The wide receiver position as a whole. Kendall Wright led the Bears in receptions and yards, but his numbers would’ve looked a lot better had he been surrounded by better players. The cupboard was bare at this position, and after the worst-case scenario happened -- Cameron Meredith tearing his ACL in August, and Kevin White breaking his collarbone in Week 1 -- the Bears were left with an overmatched and underperforming group of receivers. For Trubisky’s sake, Pace has to work to make sure 2018 isn’t a repeat of 2017. 

-- The kicker position as a whole. Since we’re focusing solely on Pace’s 2017 moves, the decision to release Robbie Gould and replace him with Connor Barth doesn’t fall into this grade. But Barth had struggled with consistency prior to this season, and Roberto Aguayo didn’t provide much competition in his short-lived stint in training camp. The Bears eventually released Barth after he missed a game-tying kick against Detroit in November, then replaced him with a guy in Cairo Santos who was coming off an injury and, as it turned out, wasn’t completely healthy yet. So the Bears then had to move on from Santos and sign Mike Nugent to get them through the rest of the season. Better consistency from this position will be important to find in 2018. 

A couple moves fall into the neither hits nor misses category:

-- Drafting Adam Shaheen. Tight ends rarely make a significant impact as rookies, but Shaheen was only targeted 14 times last year. He did catch three touchdowns and flash some good chemistry with Trubisky before suffering an injury against Cincinnati that wound up ending his season. The gains he makes with a year of experience under his belt and during his first full offseason as a pro will be critical in determining his success in Year 2, and whether or not taking him 45th overall was a hit or a miss. 

-- Signing Prince Amukamara. This was neither good nor bad, with Amukamara playing solidly in coverage but not making enough plays on the ball and committing a few too many penalties. 

Pace still has decisions to make on a few other potential cuts, including right tackle Bobby Massie ($5.584 million cap savings per Spotrac) and linebackers Willie Young ($4.5 million cap savings) and Pernell McPhee ($7.075 million cap savings). Whether or not to place the franchise tag on Kyle Fuller and potentially pay him $15 million in 2018 is another call Pace has to make before the official end of the 2017 league year. 

But for Pace, did the hits out-weigh the misses in 2017? The Glennon signing imploded, but Trubisky showed signs of promise during an average season for a rookie quarterback. Cooper was a bust, but Fuller emerged as a potential long-term option to cover for that. The most glaring misses, then, were at wide receiver and tight end where, after injuries sapped those units of Cameron Meredith and Zach Miller, there weren’t reliable targets for Trubisky. 

We’ll probably need more time to determine if Pace’s “hits” on Trubisky and Nagy truly are “hits.” But if they are, the misses of 2017 -- Glennon, Wheaton, Cooper, etc. -- will be nothing more than amusing footnotes to a successful era of Bears football.
 

Under Center Podcast: What should the Bears do at guard and cornerback?

kyle_fuller_usa.jpg
USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: What should the Bears do at guard and cornerback?

With the Bears releasing Josh Sitton and having the option to franchise Kyle Fuller, JJ Stankevitz and John “Moon” Mullin look at two of the first big decisions for Ryan Pace’s offseason plan.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.