I’ll say this about the Bulls’ debut: It’s just one game.
Games like that are going to happen. It’s why I insisted that this was a building year when we discussed things on the Talkin’ Toros podcast. I fully expect this front office to see what they have in players who are great unknowns after playing under a poor head coach in a style that isn’t conducive to winning basketball.
Last night stunk. But I’m willing to ride the rough waters with you guys and gals. After all, there’s nowhere to go but up.
• In helping the New York Jets’ pursuit of landing the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Rich Eisen yaks on his radio show, custodian of new plans that can save his people and restore the Jets’ place as the team best positioned to land Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft:
• Eisen, a long-time sports personality and noted Jets backer, is one light-speed jump away from sending R2-D2 with an urgent message for
Old Ben Kenobi Mitchell Trubisky in his most desperate hour. This is how topsy-turvy the football world is to close the 2020 calendar year. A Jets fan is begging for the Bears quarterback to tank a game to a team on a 13-game losing streak for the sake of draft position. You can’t make this stuff up.
• Look … Eisen can beg, send a droid, hologram, Sith holocron, or whatever he wants. I’m not sure it’s going to make a difference. Moreover, it might not even be up to Trubisky one way or another. Because if David Montgomery gets another 30+ carries, that will mean the game won’t be in Trubisky’s hands. And as far as I’m concerned, the Bears are best off riding Montgomery down the stretch if they want to win their final games.
• On the other side of the ball, Matt Nagy is miffed about Roquan Smith’s Pro Bowl snub:
Matt Nagy called Roquan Smith's exclusion from the Pro Bowl roster "simply not right."
"He leads the NFL in solo tackles. Leads all linebackers in tackles for loss. I don't think anything more needs to be said."
— Dan Wiederer (@danwiederer) December 23, 2020
• Don’t get me wrong. Mitchell Trubisky is an important piece of the puzzle. He plays the most important position in the game, for crying out loud. But Montgomery and Smith are the players I’d be asking to tank on Sunday if I wanted the Jaguars to slip up and come away with an unexpected win. As for me, I hope the Bears run circles around Jacksonville, pick up a stress-free win, and come away without major injuries. I’m not asking for too much, am I?
• One thing I’d like to continue seeing is the emergence of Bilal Nichols down the stretch. Chris Emma (670 The Score) writes about how the 2018 fifth-round pick has grown into his role as a solid, rotational defensive lineman who does a ton of work at the line of scrimmage. Nichols has been balling in four games since the bye. He has three sacks, 16 tackles, 2 tackles-for-loss, 5 quarterback hits, and an interception. It’s a sample that’s kin to one quarter of a full season, but that’s a 16-game pace of 12 sacks, 64 tackles, 8 tackles-for-loss, and 20 quarterback hits. That’s high-end stuff. Although, I don’t think he’ll play to the pace of picking up 4 interceptions. Then again, I don’t want to put limitations on what I think a player can do. Go get those picks, #98.
• Finding highlights of interior defensive linemen isn’t easy, so shout out to Doug Farrar for unearthing Nichols’ excellence in a .gif:
Bears DI Bilal Nichols had one hell of a game against the Vikings. Two sacks, five pressures, three stops, and he just swats Kirk Cousins down here. No soup for you, Kirk. pic.twitter.com/ROnW6KTyvf
— Doug Farrar (@NFL_DougFarrar) December 21, 2020
• This picture is worth a thousand words (and one of five pressures):
Bilal Nichols was the #Bears highest-graded player against the Vikings
He led the defense with 5 pressures on Kirk Cousins pic.twitter.com/9brzg76srV
— PFF CHI Bears (@PFF_Bears) December 21, 2020
• While we’re dreaming on rising young players, Cole Kmet landed on NFL analyst David Carr’s Offensive All-Rookie Team. This comes with a caveat from Carr, who believes tight end play (particularly among the rookies) is down across the board. But after a slow start, Kmet has saw an increase in snaps and production. Kmet has 19 targets in his last four games since the bye after picking up just 11 targets in 10 games. The Bears didn’t feature Kmet often in their win against the Vikings, but didn’t need to do so in order to secure the victory. In the end, I’d like to see him finish strong against Jacksonville and Green Bay.
• While the Bears angle for a late-season run at one of the final postseason spots, the Lions continue their GM search:
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) December 24, 2020
• ICYMI, the NFL has new rules for when and how coaches can be interviewed for upcoming vacancies. Here’s further explanation from NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport:
• Josh Dubow (AP) rounds up some of the best and brightest minority coaching candidates who will try to get head-coaching gigs. The NFL has just six active minority head coaches. That number includes Romeo Crennel and Raheem Morris who are coaching on an interim basis. Commissioner Roger Goodell publicly pushed for more inclusivity in the hiring process during the offseason. And soon, NFL teams will either act on it or we’ll see current trends continue. In any case, I would encourage you to check out some trending coaches. Who knows … one might end up on your wish list at some point in the future.
• The Packers kicked the tires on hosting fans at Lambeau Field during their Week 12 game against the Bears. For this week’s regular-season finale, the team will host a few more fans in the stands. Richard Ryman (Green Bay Press-Gazette) reports the Packers will host up to 1,000 people for Saturday’s game against the Titans. No, fans won’t be in attendance. Instead, the crowd will be made up of team employees, members of their households, and more than 200 local health care workers, essential workers, and people in their immediate households. It’s a nice gesture to give those in that area an opportunity to do something special.