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Before we take a quick look at the year that was, let's talk about the game that just happened . . .
Mmmmm. On second thought, do we have to?
[Editor's Note (shrug): I kinda want to pretend that game never happened.]
You know the more the years go on, the more it seems like you're starting to see things my way, buddy.
[Editor's Note: I can't imagine why that would be.]
Ha ha ha ha ha!
[Editor's Note: Have you watched the last episode of Westworld yet? It turns out that for decades, Delores has been talking to . . . ]
(Cuts off Steve abruptly.) I can't imagine what that has to do with me. But sure, I'll fire up the Tivo after I shit, I mean ship, the last of this column out.
We should talk about last Saturday a little, as the Bears provided a few individual bright spots in the 41-21 loss to Washington.
Cameron Meredith had another nice game (135 yards, one TD) and cemented his standing as a guy probably employed by the NFL next season. In the context of the game, the season, life, the universe and everything, the effort meant nothing.
But congratulations on bringing yourself one step closer to generational wealth, Mr. Meredith!
I mean that and you deserve it.
Cody Whitehair looked good again (more on him later) and linebacker Jerrell Freeman stood out on defense following his return to action following a four-game suspension for PED use.
Freeman swears he wasn't shooting liquefied rhino penis into his veins (thanks again, wisdom of the Orient), but rather using straight-up lighter fluid.
Turns out he was telling the truth, but Kingsford® Charcoal Lighter Fluid is in fact on the banned substance list.
Who woulda thunk it.
The baaaaaaaaaad news is that the Bears couldn't pressure Kirk Cousins, cover DeSean Jackson, or stop any of the Washington Redskins (still racist) from running the football, which a lot of them did for many yards.
Hence, the drubbing. But most of us weren't surprised given the match-up and the deflating nature of the prior week's loss to Green Bay.
The Bears have another bite at the apple this Sunday in Minnesota, which for pride's sake, I hope goes well.
Worried about draft position?
You shouldn't be.
With a maximum of four wins available to them, the Bears could pick anywhere from third to sixth.
As long as either offensive tackle Cam Robinson (check out this insightful piece from Sports Mockery as to why a top flight O-lineman could realistically be available for the Bears), or outside linebacker/safety/return man/general-freak-of-nature Jabrill Peppers are on the board in the first six picks, the Bears will end up with a top talent.
So all's well that ends well.
Or maybe "that ends, oh well" is a better way to put it.
2016 - 10 Positives
Woah, 10 positives?
Um Steve, I like a challenge and I don't mind when you write the headers on these things, but you saw the games this year. This is a bit extreme, don't you think?
[Editor's Note: Nah, I'm messing with you man. Just give it your best shot.]
Thank fucking Christ.
- Jordan Howard: Dear Lord Baby Jesus: I'd like to thank you for this bountiful fifth-round harvest.
When he's not busy running over opponents, he's . . . actually I haven't heard much about the guy outside of football.
Hasn't been accused of domestic violence, arrested for carrying a gun in a nightclub, pinched for PEDs, called in for questioning regarding his involvement in a pyramid scheme . . . let's see (thumbs briefly through his Wikipedia page) . . . he's a supporter of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation.
I feel like my praise has all but guaranteed that multiple dead hookers will be discovered in his truck within days of this going to print, but pessimism be damned!
Jordan Howard is probably going to become like the sixth greatest running back in Bears history! Or at least have a career statistically on par with Neal Anderson!
Kool-Aid! Kool-Aid! Kool-Aid!
- Leonard Floyd: I swear, if this guy figures out how to tackle with parts of his body other than his face, we've got a nice piece of the puzzle here and a potential heir to the title of "Sack Man."
In most aspects of life, you only want to have one sack, because sacks almost always carry shit or testicles. Now don't confuse sacks with sax. You always want more sax. I give you the beach party scene from The Lost Boys*," most Sade songs** and whatever this is.
And like '80s sax, defensive sacks are best administered early and often - though if it were legal to knock opposing QBs on their keister using nothing but the power of the blaring, sexy magic that is saxophone, I'd prefer it.
Former Bear Calvin Thomas, get on that.
Floyd put up 6 1/2 sacks between Weeks 6 through 13 and showcased the athleticism which hooked Bears scouts last offseason. If he stays on the field and refines his raw ability, the young man's NFL future is bright.
- (Detective) Cody Whitehair: Aside from having a name straight out of film noir or True Detective comic***, the rookie lineman stepped in at center for the injured Hroniss Grasu and after a shaky first few games played at an extremely high level. With Grasu and Kyle Long back in the offense next year, a talented O-line is a legit reason to be excited about 2017.
- Other Quarterbacks: This one is aimed at the Cutler haters and people young enough to have forgotten that seemingly impossible 12-month period from 2003 to 2004 during which the Chicago Bears starting QBs consisted of Kordell Stewart, Chris Chandler, Chad Hutchinson, Jonathan Quinn, Craig Krenzel and Rex Grossman.
If you were born in the mid-'90s you don't remember how truly horrifyingly and historically inept the Bears have been at acquiring long-term answers at the most important position in sports.
Oh, but I do.
Trust the old-timers here, kids.
Reading about the Thanksgiving Day game in which Craig Krenzel was outplayed by Dallas's Drew Henson, who attempted 12 of his 20 total NFL passes that day, pales in comparison to the experience of watching it in person.
That said, you'll never have to replace your girlfriend's cousin's projection TV because you threw a handful of pogs at it either.
Now that's something to be thankful for.
This season's results were mixed at best, but with a little historical perspective taken into account, one has to feel like the Bears have identified a stopgap level of competence at the position until the next long-term solution is identified, which doesn't happen often.
- Ryan Pace: The man stocking the shelves has a lot of work to do, but he's certainly laid some roster groundwork. He just has to acquire another 16 or so impact players this offseason and things should start to turn around.
- Great Seats Were Still Available! Thanks to the performance of our beloved Bears (as in, "a hauntingly tragic performance"), it was not difficult to find outstanding seats at Soldier Field for face value or below on the secondary market.
2016 - The (Stifles Cough) Negatives
Oh boy, 2016. When a team is this far under the salary cap and the results are this bad, you can really taste the savings.
So much can be said about the things that didn't work, or pan out, or just plain sucked hairy butthole.
Suspensions for PED use (Performance Enhancing rhino-Dong-powder), terrible starting quarterback play (see Cutler, Jay), lack of scoring, a terrible turnover ratio, mysteriously serious injuries (Kyle Fuller . . . wha?), career stifling injuries (hey, remember when Jeremy Langford was the starting running back?) and endless additions to the IR.
In summation, 2016: Sad Trombone Noise.
In addition to the known-bad, there were a number of under the radar disasters this season.
- Kyle Long tore his labrum while drunkenly testing his pass-blocking footwork against an actual bear. Hey Zangeif, save the showboating for the occasional TD reception.
- Linebackers coach Glen Pires's marriage fell apart after he was caught having an affair with Sinestra, Mistress Of The Void. Avid readers will recall that Sinestra was hired as a consultant to resolve the Bears' early-season Time Of Possession woes. Long story short, despite a marked improvement from that point on, every member of the Bears organization is damned to an eternity in the Pits Of Azbanarth.
As compromises go, I give this one a four.
On the bright side, Pires is expected to accept a position as an Acolyte Of Darkness at season's end, working in the executive offices inside Sinestra's Tower Of Woe.
Congrats on the promotion and the pending divorce, Glen!
- John Fox bit off 30% of his tongue while trying to aggressively chew gum in the press conference immediately following Week 16's loss to the Redskins. He's listed as "questionable" for the season finale and the remainder of the 2017 season.
- Jay Cutler tried to give a $1.5 million check to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, but it was intercepted and cashed by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (the Green Bay safety, not the clown who performs outside Party City during the summer months) as he was trying to put the envelope in the mailbox. Despite the attempt at a generous offering, Cutler was roundly booed by his accounting team.
- Matt Barkley committed nine turnovers in the last two games, which probably cost him a starting job and about $50 million in prospective income. And in related news, I'm contractually obligated to put at least one piece of actual football info in every column.
- In other news, the man inside mascot Staley Da Bear was fired for being arrested on indecent exposure charges, stemming from a three-way between him, the Philly Phanatic and a chick wearing the head from a salvaged Chicago Sting outfit.
I'm not sure if that counts as an FFM, an MMF, an MMM or what. For some reason I'm confident that it's not an FFF. Like, the stinger on the bee has to basically act as a phallus, right?
Like I said . . . at least one piece of actual football information.
Eye On The Opposition: Viking Funeral
One. More. Game.
Good grief, I'm glad this season is in the books.
After starting the season 5-0, the Vikings look to end their disappointing season back where it started. At .500.
Two teams with nothing but pride to play for meet this Sunday in Minnesota's brand-spanking new stadium, the unimaginatively named "U.S. Bank Stadium."
While its moniker has all the pizazz of "Arena Name TBD," at least it's more structurally sound than its predecessor.
Or at least more structurally sound-ish?
C'mon, Minnesota. You need to get better at roofs.
The Bears are on the cusp of achieving one of the rarest of accomplishments of the 2016 season - beating one of their opponents twice.
Inversely, the Vikings have an even rarer opportunity - the chance to avenge a 2016 loss that came as a result of excellent quarterback play by one Jay Cutler.
Improbable object meets unlikely circumstance.
Who will emerge slightly less un-victorious?
Right now the big story in the Land o' Lakes is upstart receiver Adam Thielen, a former rookie camp tryout player who has risen to the ranks of competent wide receiver.
Thielen has only 40 more yards to go before he becomes the first Viking since 2009 to hit the 1,000-yard mark.
Which is to say he will become the first player in seven years that has averaged 62.5 yards per game.
Does anybody else think that we should have upped our metrics for a successful offensive season after the schedule got changed from 14 to 16 games?
I mean, math?
Guess I'll just go print up shirts that read, "You Can't Stop Adam Thielen, You Can Only Hope To Contain Him To 62.5 Yards" for my friends from the greater Twin Cities metropolitan area.
Adrian Peterson attempted a comeback from devastating knee/groin injuries (at least it wasn't a knee to the groin injury), but looked flat in the season-sinking loss to Green Bay on Saturday. He has said for weeks that he would not play in games without playoff implications because it would be "pointless," which is an actual quote.
I'll check the white board again, but according to my calculations the Vikings cannot be credited with three wins against the Bears, even if they notch a "W."
Even if AP does play, this might be the first game that I don't consider his impact on the Bears to be a meaningful one, unless football teams start getting credit for a touchdown every time an offensive player rubs his temples, sighs heavily and says "ugh, fiiiiine" as he is handed the ball.
If this does happen, both teams should crack triple digits.
Kool-Aid (5 of 5 Glasses Of Champagne)
Time to look on the bright side, Bears fans: To paraphrase legendary broadcaster Hawk Harrelson, this season is OVAH!
And to paraphrase him even further, I will vacate my post entirely by sitting silent for nearly a full minute because something bad happened to the team I am rooting for.
. . . (one minute passes)
A toast to each and every one of you who hung in there and ground out the last 21 weeks of football hype, disappointment and ultimately a level of deflated indifference that has never before been seen in this town.
For the last time this year, I'm going to tell you what the Bears must do to win.
Spoiler alert: It's the same thing I prescribe every goddam week because every time Howard gets 25 or more rushing attempts, the Bears win.
Unlike last week, this is a decent matchup for the Bears.
The Vikings are banged up, Sam Bradford is a statue in the pocket, and nobody on the opposing sideline gives a flying fuck what the outcome of the game is.
Howard looks to surpass Matt Forte's rookie running back record of 1,238 yards. He will need only 62 yards to do so; look for him to be the only reason the offense does what it should have been doing all season long.
I'm gonna leave it right there, folks.
Chicago should win this one, which I know will disappoint some of you.
It's been that bad in 2016.
The Bears have even managed to anger their fanbase by, at times, winning.
There are a number of exciting players on this roster, so I invite you all to come back next year.
I have a funny feeling that it will suck a lot less.
You might say, I Still Believe.
Bears 26, Vikings 10
About The Author
After writing one of the footnotes for this column, The Author realized that he had spent too much of his life filled with regret.
The Author quickly set about remedying the lack of joy in his existence by mastering the saxophone and fulfilling his lifelong dream of performing shirtless, in jeans, next to a trashcan fire, while coated in what audience members hoped was Vaseline.
* Quick personal side note: I was a quasi-professional musician in another life. I never once appeared on stage shirtless and dipped completely in arm butter, nor did I play an instrument next to an active trash can fire; failings that haunt me to this day.
** Don't give me that look. If Sade isn't DJing your hook-up attempts, you're not even trying to get laid.
*** Leaning forward in a tense posture, disgraced detective Cody Whitehair considered the woman in the white panama hat and deliberately, almost cautiously removed the small bottle of Scotch from the top drawer of his otherwise bare desk. He poured two fingers into a glass and noiselessly set the liquor to his right, leaving his left hand free to scribble notes on the buckslip placed upon the otherwise bare writing surface.
"This dame is trouble," he thought to himself as he sipped. The detective was hesitant to speak, as though losing this conversational game of chicken would expose a weakness that only this woman could see. He took a second sip, letting the silence build.
The pulsing neon of the pawn shop sign outside the room's lone window had been the only source of light and seemed to rhythmically tighten the air around them.
Until she lit the cigarette.
As she inhaled sweet poison, the faint light of the cigarette's glowing embers drew focus to the client's red lips and for a moment, broke the neon's hold on the room.
"Mr. Whitehair, I understand you are a man who understands the meaning of the word 'discretion,'" she said in a flat, clear tone. "My husband has been missing for some time and the police seem," she paused, "unwilling to help me. I need someone able and most importantly willing," she emphasized the word, "to do what it takes," again an emphasis, "to get answers, even if it means . . . " She broke off, considering her next words carefully, "acting outside the bounds of the law, when necessary."
"Trouble," Whitehair thought to himself again.
But last night's dust-up with the Gerritch boys had proven costly.
He wanted nothing to do with Carina Valenzuela, but he needed the money. Bad.
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