Blending Italian sausage with ground beef in my Saturday chili elevated it to another level. I’ll need to drop the recipe soon, since I can’t share food samples through a computer screen. Not yet, at least.
• For what it’s worth, it sounds like Matt Nagy isn’t the only one coaching his last game with his team on Sunday in Minnesota. NFL Network reporters Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero hint at today being the end of the road in Minnesota.
• It’s interesting how Zimmer and Nagy are similar. Both coaches had successful moments while dragging their respective teams from the rubble left behind by their predecessor. And both were respected by their players, many of whom continued to play through knowing the end was near. That isn’t inconsequential. When we’re talking about an NFL locker room, it’s a group of 53 players, plus 15 practice squad guys, and those who landed on IR. We’re looking at upward of 70 players. So, yeah, there will be players who don’t vibe with the coach. There might be a bunch who want him out. But that it didn’t turn into a Marc Trestman era flop at the end when it easily could’ve done so is a testament to respect. Respect for themselves as players, as well as coaches.
• I thought Wayne Drehs hit the nail on the head with this tweet. In the end, the writing is on the wall and the time has come for clean slates despite prior successes because the future doesn’t look all that bright with the status quo. But it wasn’t all bad.
• As the Bears start moving on from the very-much-closed competitive window, I’ll find soon myself looking forward to building toward the next one. And at the core of it should be Roquan Smith:
• Smith has just one more year under contract with the Bears, as he will play 2022 under the fifth-year option after the Bears made the right/good/easy decision to pick it up last offseason. Chicago’s football team should be looking to hand over an extension. But with uncertainty in upper management being what it is, maybe that’s why it’s been quiet on that front. Nevertheless, Roquan Smith Extension Watch is something to keep in mind once the dust settles with front office/coaching changes.
• One of Smith’s 2018 draft classmates got a sizable extension of their own on Saturday night. The Bucs announced defensive tackle Vita Vea was given a four-year extension, while ESPN’s Adam Schefter was reporting the terms of the deal being worth $73 million. That makes for an AAV of $18.25 million for the 6-4, 347-pound monster defensive tackle. Sure, Smith and Vea play two very different positions. But it’s the kind of deal Smith’s representatives could point toward as a potential framework. Two defensive stoppers who were both top-15 picks and are impact players at their respective positions.
• After a rough start to the season, Eddie Jackson really turned it on down the stretch. And it isn’t going unnoticed:
• One key factor in Jackson’s resurgence might be in how the Bears have been using him. Rather than sticking him in that traditional free safety spot, Jackson has been everywhere along the defense. Some of it has been out of necessity, but seeing Jackson line up and excel as a nickel corner from time-to-time should serve as a nice reminder that versatility is as valuable as ever. I realize there is a loud segment of fans who weren’t down with Jackson moving around the defense, but perhaps Chuck Pagano was right in using him this way for two seasons. That Sean Desai ultimately figured out how to deploy Jackson bodes well for the future. Cutting Jackson won’t save money against the cap, so riding it out and hoping he’s turned a corner feels like the play here.
• For what it’s worth, it sounds like Jackson is comfortable and is embracing this role:
Here is #Bears safety Eddie Jackson's response on playing nickel corner, when it started and how he feels about playing it moving forward. Credit to @patrickfinley for asking the questions. pic.twitter.com/ZDadxxiEiA
— Nicholas Moreano (@NicholasMoreano) December 29, 2021
• In what turned out to be his last press conference as Broncos head coach, Vic Fangio did what he always does — tells the truth:
— Quentin Sickafoose (@QSickafoose) January 9, 2022
• As was the case with the Bears’ failures to find competence at quarterback, the Broncos’ shortcomings came as a direct result of middling at the quarterback position. This logic didn’t help any:
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) January 9, 2022
• I’m sure all will be forgiven if GM George Paton can pull a rabbit out of his hat and trade for Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, or some other quarterback unhappy in their current situation. But if they don’t, well, it’ll be back to the drawing board in Denver. Anyone think John Elway still has some productive snaps in him?
• The chatter surrounding Jim Harbaugh and the Raiders is only building. “Buzz is building in league circles,” writes PFT’s Mike Florio. “that team owner Mark Davis wants, and will get, the former 49ers and current Michigan coach.” Surely, the Raiders will do the bare minimum to comply by the Rooney Rule. And, in the end, in very Raiders-ish fashion, Vegas is targeting a splash name to put on the marquee as an attraction. So while the Bears have been floated as a possible option, I would venture to guess it would take something special to reel Harbaugh in and keep him out of Las Vegas.
• Not enough points on the board, and not nearly enough knee-cap biting:
The #Lions and OC Anthony Lynn are expected to part ways following today’s game, sources say. One of the more respected leaders as a HC, it was never a good fit as OC for Lynn in Detroit. He had play-calling duties stripped earlier, and now both sides appear set to walk away.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 9, 2022
• Meanwhile, the only NFC North team making the postseason this year gets its all-star left tackle back:
David Bakhtiari was a first-team All-Pro selection at left tackle last season despite playing in only 12 games.
It’s been 374 days since he tore his left ACL in practice and 378 days since he played in a game.
Today he returns just in time for the Packers’ Super Bowl push.
— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) January 9, 2022
• I’ve been critical of Pace’s cap management over the years. But at least it never got *THIS* bad:
• There might be some logistical cap-ologist reasoning behind doing this, but the Dave Gettleman Giants haven’t earned the benefit of the doubt.
• Here’s what your Sunday slate of games looks like:
ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown, Week 18 regular-season finale style, is now on the air. pic.twitter.com/pf9h4vfcUH
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 9, 2022
• A homecoming win for Marc-André Fleury in his return the Vegas:
Enhanced Box Score: Blackhawks 2, Golden Knights 1 — January 8, 2022https://t.co/1WqudHk7JR
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) January 9, 2022
• Love how the baseball rumor mill still churns while MLB is in the midst of a lockout:
A lot to get into from the rumor mill, including what’s still on the table for the Cubs. https://t.co/VPTxDGxOgJ
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) January 8, 2022