Yesterday was a tough one for Chicago sports fans.
Yes, the Cubs, White Sox, and Sky won their respective games. The Bulls aren’t part of the NBA re-start bubble, but not having to watch a Jim Boylen led team is a win. And since the Bears didn’t lose yesterday, it also counts as a win in my book.
Unfortunately, as Phil Rosenthal of the Chicago Tribune reports, NBC Sports Chicago had a wave of layoffs.
Among those who were laid off was Laurence Holmes, who hosted the Bears post-game show that featured Alex Brown, Matt Forte, Lance Briggs, and Olin Kreutz. It was must-see TV for die-hards, especially after the most agonizing and frustrating losses. Leila Rahimi was also let go. You might be familiar with Leila’s work … pretty much everywhere. Baseball. Basketball. Pregame. Postgame. In the studio. At the ballpark/arena. Everywhere. She’s a true jack-of-all-trades, a pro’s pro, and one of my favorite people I’ve ever worked with in media. Seeing good people and hard workers who provide so much to the Chicago sports scene get laid off stinks. And there were many more behind-the-scenes folks who were also let go whose presences will be missed.
In the end, when a regional sports network in the third largest sports market loses quality programming and people, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. Here’s hoping everyone lands on their feet in a better, more secure gig sooner, rather than later.
• Let’s take some time to look into Bill Barnwell’s crystal ball:
New column: I tried to project the Hall of Fame chances for everyone I could think of in the NFL https://t.co/bXpb86YUwn
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) August 5, 2020
• Barnwell projects future Hall of Famers for each of the NFL’s 32 teams. For the sake of our sanity, we’ll bypass the quarterbacks the Bears didn’t take in the 2017 NFL Draft and focus on the players currently on the roster who have potential HOF trajectories. As expected, Khalil Mack has the best odds of rocking a gold jacket in Canton, Ohio. Mack has made the last five Pro Bowls, earned three first-team All-Pro nominations, and owns a Defensive Player of the Year trophy from his time with the Raiders in 2016. But for Mack to become a lock, Barnwell says Mack needs two more All-Pro seasons to ensure enshrinement.
• Using Pro Football Reference’s Hall of Fame monitor, you can see Mack is not too far off Von Miller’s trajectory. And Miller is viewed as a sure-fire lock for Barnwell. So long as Mack continues on this path, I’m looking forward to planning a return trip to Ohio for his enshrinement into the Hall.
• Also on a possible path to Canton is Eddie Jackson, who falls into Barnwell’s “in the running” category. Jackson has two Pro Bowls in three years as a pro and is just one year removed from being a first-team All-Pro. It would help a ton if Jackson can put together more seasons like the 2018 campaign in which he led the NFL in interceptions. We’ll re-visit Jackson’s candidacy at a later time.
• Additionally, Jimmy Graham and Kyle Fuller land as long shots here. Barnwell puts Graham and Fuller in the “work to do” category, but for different reasons. I’d venture to say Graham has a better shot at making it happen. Graham’s peak was being the best tight end in football and someone who changed the position as we know it. But Graham’s peak might be too short for him to get the necessary support for a call to the Hall. A late-career bounce back with the Bears would be good for this team, as well as Graham’s candidacy.
• As for Fuller, making consecutive Pro Bowls and having one All-Pro season opens the conversation. But for the talks to pick up, Fuller will need to rack up an extended string of Pro Bowls and more All-Pro recognition. In the end, that Fuller is even in the mix here is an encouraging sign. It wasn’t that long ago when Fuller was on the cusp of not making the roster because he missed a year due to injury and the team signed free agents to protect from being without the 2014 first-round pick.
• For your listening pleasure:
'Bear Report Podcast [2020-21] — Thoughts on Chicago Bears beginning training camp' by Bear Report Radio Podcast: Chicago Bears https://t.co/SVC99NTCWl
— Zack Pearson (@Zack_Pearson) August 5, 2020
• Matthew Stafford was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list after a false positive. Shortly after that news came across the wires, Stafford’s wife chimed in on Instagram:
View this post on Instagram
@nfl @nfl @nfl I would also like people to know.. if you saw me out and about after this, it was because we already knew it was a false positive. We would never chance endangering anyone with this virus. If we have learned anything in the past two years, it’s that we know the value of health and the health of others.
• Over at Pro Football Talk, Mike Florio asks a pertinent question: How do the Lions know Matthew Stafford had a false positive? Which naturally leads us to ask if whether false negatives will happen. Because if a false positive can happen, then a false negative can, too. Finding objective answers here won’t be easy because there is still so much we don’t know about COVID-19. Ultimately, this entire situation reminds me that playing football in 2020 will be a challenge (Michael: Luis/Flori’s point is well taken, but I think testing – in order – Negative, Negative, Positive, Negative, Negative, Negative … without symptoms while all of his family also tested negative is a good sign it was actually a false positive).
• The University of Connecticut’s athletic department canceled its 2020 football season, citing concerns related to playing during the COVID-19 pandemic. And by doing so, became the first FBS (formerly Division I-A) to cancel its football season:
After receiving guidance from state and public health officials and consulting with football student-athletes, we've decided that @UConnFootball will not compete on the gridiron this season. https://t.co/R5dLlnFNo9
— UConn Huskies (@UConnHuskies) August 5, 2020
• Losing UConn’s football won’t move the meter much because it’s not a football powerhouse. But that a higher-profile school was willing to pull the plug is telling. I’ll be curious to see if other schools follow in UConn’s footsteps.
• At the other end of the college football spectrum, the Big Ten revealed its updated schedule:
• Two planned bye weeks is a forward-thinking schedule quirk. But not seeing Ohio State-Michigan in the final week of the regular season is going to be weird. That is, of course, if a season is to be played at all.
• Elsewhere in the Big Ten, Eric Edholm (Yahoo! Sports) reports Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons is expected to opt out of playing this season. Parsons projects to be a first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. So if he chooses not to play in 2020, he will join Minnesota receiver Rashod Bateman in making that call. And now that we have a Big Ten schedule to talk about, I wonder if it will lead others to make the same decision ahead of September’s openers.
• While top college prospects are on my mind, it’s never too early to think about draft-eligible offensive tackles who could be fits in Chicago. PFF’s Michael Renner shares some preseason OT rankings.
• This is bold:
A group of more than 1,000 Big Ten football players is calling on the conference and the NCAA to devise a comprehensive plan to ensure the safety and well-being of players leading up to and during the upcoming fall season. #BigTenUnitedhttps://t.co/C8gt2Fddbs
— The Players' Tribune (@PlayersTribune) August 5, 2020
• It turns out this was a joke. But it is 2020, and therefore I could not tell if it was a joke or not:
Weird new Big Ten rule this year: team that has been most recently quarantined gets choice to receive opening kickoff or defer to 2nd half
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) August 5, 2020
• So much for this trade:
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 4, 2020