Bears

Shea McClellin getting best opportunity with new Bears staff

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Shea McClellin getting best opportunity with new Bears staff

One member of the Bears’ former coaching staff described linebacker Shea McClellin as “just sufficient,” a barely adequate NFL player but nothing special. Lovie Smith once refused a directive to move McClellin to middle linebacker.

The incoming Bears staff already has a considerably higher early opinion of the 19th overall pick of the 2012 draft.

“I think he’s got a chance to be a good inside linebacker,” said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who knows something about “good inside linebackers” from his years with the likes of NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis and others. “We’re going to give him a full opportunity and full chance to learn the position so we can evaluate him and see if that’s a good spot for him.”

[MORE: Kevin White faces stiff rookie expectations from Bears, NFL]

Coach John Fox earlier said that McClellin would be going to inside linebacker, and McClellin has been slotted as one of the starting inside linebackers, alongside free agent signee Mason Foster, in the early offseason going. Whether McClellin holds onto the position when Lamarr Houston and Jonathan Bostic return from injuries is a position competition worth watching through the offseason.

“He’s got good size, he’s got good athletic ability, I think,” Fangio said. “He has been hindered, I think, by being moved around. To no fault of anybody’s, just the way it goes.”

Coincidence or pure chance perhaps, but Fangio named McClellin and linebacker Christian Jones right after mentioning cornerback Kyle Fuller as a individuals he could build upon. Obviously the likes of Pernell McPhee, Antrel Rolle and a couple of others are far higher in the “building block” hierarchy but the implication was that McClellin has made a better early impression, on film and on the field, with this staff than he had with his previous one.

When the Bears finally gave up trying to force-fit McClellin into a defensive end position, moving him to linebacker last offseason was viewed as a much-needed do-over. And it was, to an extent. McClellin was credited with 84 tackles by Bears performance accounting, good enough for fourth on the Bears.

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But McClellin’s total of 32 solo tackles tied for ninth, and while former GM Phil Emery consistently posited that McClellin had a much greater rate of creating disruptions and impact, it was not apparent to most observers and analysts.

The team in fact elected not to exercise the fifth-year option on McClellin’s rookie contract, meaning he comes out of contract after the current season.

Now it appears that McClellin is getting perhaps his best chance at NFL success, fittingly perhaps in the very scheme – 3-4 – that most evaluators considered best for him prior to his being drafted in 2012. As a double irony, his chance is coming, not under the GM that drafted him and had a vested interest in his success, but rather an entirely new coaching and front office.

“You know, when he came out of college he was a versatile guy, he played a lot of different positions and maybe now it’s time to lock him down into hopefully an inside linebacker spot,” Fangio said. “But if it doesn’t work out, maybe we move him back out, but I want to see him at inside linebacker for awhile… .

“I think he’s got good instincts. He’s got some size, he can run, I think he can be a good blitzer from in there. So just a little bit of everything.”

It sounds like Jay Cutler is bored in retirement

It sounds like Jay Cutler is bored in retirement

After a week off the air, “Very Cavallari” was back with a new episode, which meant more Jay Cutler in retirement.

This week we were treated to Cutler being as sarcastic as ever and sulking about having nothing to do. Cutler’s first scene involved him and his wife, Kristin Cavallari, talking about their relationship and spending time with each other. Cavallari is going to do another pop-up shop for her fashion store, which means more travel. Jay, your thoughts?

“Oh, great,” Cutler said with his trademark sarcasm.

Later in the conversation we get a bleak look into Jay Cutler post-football.

“I just hang out and clean up,” Cutler said.

Sounds like he may want to hit up the announcing gig he had lined up before coming out of retirement and heading to the Dolphins for the 2017 season.

Next, we got Cutler shopping for birthday presents for their 3-year-old daughter. If nothing else, this was amusing to see Cutler shopping for gifts for little girls.

Watch the video above to see all of the best of Cutty, which also features him designing jewelry for some reason.

Recalling Chet Coppock – snapshots of a character, who also had character

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NBC Sports Chicago

Recalling Chet Coppock – snapshots of a character, who also had character

The news that came out Thursday, that Chet Coppock had died from injuries suffered in an automobile accident earlier this month in Florida, was sad on so many levels. That you didn’t have a chance to say “good-bye,” that you didn’t have a chance to say “thank you,” that you won’t have more of “those” kinds of Chet moments.

But one of my favorite movie moments is at the end of “The Last Samurai” when Tom Cruise, the wounded ex-U.S. soldier who’d fought with the Samurai, is asked by the young Japanese emperor about the death of Ken Watanabe’s Samurai character Katsumoto, “Tell me how he died.” To which Cruise says, “I will tell you, how he lived.”

Somehow that’s the feeling thinking about Chet – little fun snapshots of how he lived.

Snapshots like listening to Coppock on Sports, and appreciating that Chet deserves a spot in the pantheon of those who created a genre.

Like how we in the media laughed imitating Chet’s questions, which routinely went on long enough for you to run out for a sandwich and be back before he was finished. But the chuckle was how Chet wouldn’t directly ask a guest, “So why did you make THAT idiotic play?” No, Chester had this tack of, “So, what would you say to those who would say, ‘You’re an idiot?’” Of course, it would take a minimum of two minutes for him to wend his way through the question, but the results were always worth waiting for.

Like “Your dime, your dance floor.” 

Like grabbing lunches with Chet while I was working on the ’85 Bears book, but in particular while I was writing “100 Greatest Chicago Sports Arguments.” The specific in the latter told me a lot about Chet, far beyond just the information he was sharing.

The “argument” was over who was the greatest Chicago play-by-play broadcaster. Now, Chet of course suggested tongue-in-cheek that he belonged in the discussion; after all, as he pointed out, a high school kid at New Trier games, sitting by himself in the stands, doing play-by-play into a “microphone” that was one of those cardboard rollers from bathroom tissue, oughta be worth something.

Chet’s nomination for the actual No. 1 was Jack Brickhouse, the WGN legend who Chet noted had done play-by for every conceivable sport.

But the reason for Chet’s vote for Brickhouse wasn’t about any of that. It was, Chet said, because Brickhouse beginning back in the mid-‘50s, when the Cubs were integrating with Gene Baker and Ernie Banks, had very intentionally made it clear with his broadcasting and behavior that Baker and Banks were “Cubs,” not “black Cubs.” Brickhouse’s principles had left an impression on a then-young Chet.

I hadn’t known any of that. But Chet did, and that he had taken a lasting impression from what he’d heard growing up said something about Chet as well as Jack. That impressed me, and frankly has always been my favorite Chet story.

So losing an institution like Chet is sad; Chet did say that, no, he wasn’t an institution, but rather that he belonged IN one. But at least he came our way.