Bears

Random News of the Day: Wedding Brackets

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Random News of the Day: Wedding Brackets

Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011
8:58 a.m.

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

Guys know sports. We eat, sleep and breathe them. We love and respect the games, the players, the competition, the hype and the excitement. They make us who we are and we can never get enough. We love talking about the MVP-performance we watched on TV the night before, or the MVP-performances we say we had back in school. We love talking complex strategy, like why you should bunt a speedy runner over to second when you have a solid lefty hitter on deck. And we also like turning everyday situations into something, anything, that is sports related: placing basketball nets over the garbage can, folding papers into triangles so you can kickflick field goals, throwing snowballs as if we were the next Roy Halladayyou name it. And when were in uncharted waters, its relieving to know that we can always channel the sports world to put us back in a safe harbor.

And for guys, nowhere is this more apparent than in wedding planning.

You see, I am in the selecting a type of wedding invitation phase with my fiance. Obviously, this is her domain. Its all her on this. And frankly, thats the way it should be. I feel about as out of place as the Ernest Goes To Camp producers were on Oscar night, 1988. We got through two of those gigantic invitation selection books and declared that the ball was in her court from that point forward (haonce again: sports references make it easier). But as we were discussing our invitation list, along with the differences between Esperanza and Monotype Corsiva fonts, I fell into a sports trance and had a vision: a wedding invitation list is a clone of the selection process for the NCAA basketball tournament. Guys: if you have gone the marital distance, or if youre in the wedding on-deck circle (like me), or if youve ever filled out an NCAA bracket before, then you can relate to the following. Picture what a wedding looks like. Now merge it with March Madness. It should look something like this:

1 Seeds: Bride, groom, best man, maid of honor - The ones that go the distance. Theyre the teams that have consistently met the challenge in the past and the ones most likely to stick with you all the way to the end.

2 Seeds: Parents Of the Bride And Groom - When making a wedding invitation list, placing these teams anywhere below a 2-seed would be an outrage.

3 Seeds: The Rest Of The Wedding Party - These people are likely to be very good friends and family members. Sure, you might have a 3-seed who plows through too many whiskey sours and falls victim to The Electric Slide by the end of the night, but heyupsets happen.

4 Seeds: Most Aunts, Uncles & Grandparents - They earned their ticket to the big dance. Some made it because of their names alone. We all have the consistent Uncle North Carolina and an Aunt Wisconsin in our family, right? And sometimes theres a Grandpa Gonzaga that comes around and becomes the life of the party.

5 Seeds: Everyday Friends - Solid, loyal and fun to be around. Theyre a must-invite. But as weve seen in the NCAA tournament in recent years, a lot of five seeds have been known to turn sour. Decide which ones can will show up down the road in life and proceed with guarded optimism.

6 Seeds: Cousins - Most are very deserving of the invite. The party wouldnt be the same without themespecially if one of them can distract the banquet hall manager so that extra booze can be sent in through the side door.

7 Seeds: Friends From Work - Great group, albeit somewhat unpredictable. They deserve the invite because theyve fought in the trenches with you day in and day out.

8 Seeds: Bulk Family - Something you could buy at Costco? Maybe. Anyway, bulk family refers to the other family members you see 2-3 times a year: not necessarily the distant relativesbut the ones with names you actually remember (which is a problem for me at times). In the NCAAs, the 8-9 game is usually one of the more entertaining games because they beat each other up so much that they usually have nothing left when they match up against the 1 seed. Kind of brings you back to a heated argument at Thanksgiving dinner, eh?

9 Seeds: (See 8 Seeds)

10 Seeds: High School Friends - As we all know, high school is a popularity contest. In March Madness the 10 seeds are popular picks, not only because they can get past the first round, but also ones that can wreak havoc for 2 seeds (look out, parents of the bride and groom: high school friends tend to know how to party). High school friends at a wedding are like Butler in the NCAA big dance: old school, fun, predictable, yet kind of annoying if people start overcrowding their bandwagon.

11 Seeds: The Wedding Connoisseur - The 11 seed comes to the wedding and automatically megaphones, So this table is the cool tableright? Good people, but you could do without them. Theyre fancy themselves as good Lambada dancers. Fun for some, unsettling for most.

12 Seeds: The Family Black Sheep - Probably doesnt deserve an invite, especially because they are the odds-on favorite to dive through the wedding cake like its a Guns N Roses video. Yes, the black sheep invite is one that is somewhat out of obligation and yes, they probably wont stay past the first dance, but theres also a good chance that they provide some visual ribaldry. (Note: keep these people away from a live microphone)

13 Seeds: The Wedding Personnel - What? We need to reserve a dinner spot for the photographer? Cant we just sneak them a few dinner rolls?

14 Seeds: Any Wedding Crasher - Frankly, you have no idea who these people arebut they always seem to make the dance more exciting. After 10 minutes, especially if theyre creating a lot of fun, you stop questioning why they showed up.

15 Seeds: Your Childhood Friends That You Havent Seen Since 1995 - It goes like this: you know how you catch up with someone you havent seen in years, and the conversations really exciting for the first few minutes, but it always falls flat soon after because you both realize you have nothing in common anymore? Thats the 15 seed for you. They cant go the distance. Nothing says wedding fun like comparing your childhood friends to, oh, Austin Peay.

16 Seeds: Your Second Cousin Owen From Pittsburgh - Owen, not to mention your other second cousins from Sioux Falls, have no reason being at the dance. Theyre on the obligatory invite list solely because of conference tie-ins (in a wedding sense, it means they happen to have the same last name as you).

Oh, and Im sure you might be saying, Whoawait? What about the NIT Tournament? I have that covered too! Here are the wedding NIT teams that should never make it to the big dance: ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, ex-cons, the gun enthusiast uncle whos also a fan of the open bar, Carrot Top, Charlie Sheen, your parole officer, your therapist, the one cousin who smells like taco mix and Dane Cook.

Whether its planning a wedding, a funeral even a day at jury duty, sports can always be mixed in. Just take it one game (or wedding invitation shop) at a time.

Or something like that.

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?

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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.