For Sanity’s Sake, Here’s Hoping this is My Last Justin Fields Column

| February 23rd, 2024

When the Bears drafted Cade McNown in 1999, I didn’t care.

But do you remember the first game of the 2000 season? Against a very good Vikings team, McNown opened 27-41-290-2 and 10 carries, 81 yards and a TD on the ground. From my lounger at the now defunct ESPN Zone in Times Square, I got excited.

When the Bears drafted Rex Grossman in 2003, I didn’t care.

Reverend Dave and I watched that selection, thoroughly intoxicated with some British Browns fans, at a sports pub in Piccadilly Circus. It was a surreal and hysterical experience, but nobody celebrated anything. Yet by early in the 2006 season, there were few doubting Rex could be a top player at the professional level. 

When the Bears drafted Mitch Trubisky in 2017, I didn’t care.

Well, I cared a little, as this was the first real scoop I had been given and was able to break on Twitter. I also won quite a bit of cash off the skeptical patrons of Mother Hubbard’s. (That ripped us off that night and I never returned.) I picked the Bears to go to the Super Bowl in 2019 specifically because of Mitch’s final drive against the Eagles in the Cody Parkey game; a drive I watched in the building. 

When the Bears drafted Justin Fields in 2021, I didn’t care.

While the Robert Mays’s of the world got giddy on their podcasts (why is he always so damn giggly), I hadn’t been impressed by the two college games I’d seen Fields play and saw no reason for ecstasy. But there were clearly moments in his tenure I found genuinely thrilling, most of which were documented on this site. Fields is not a bad quarterback. He’s a limited one. 

When the Bears take their next starting quarterback in April, I won’t care.

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We Are Tracking Instagram Follows Now

| February 20th, 2024

We have hit the point of the offseason where we are tracking whether the Chicago Bears’ current QB follows the team on his Instagram account. Nothing epitomizes the fanbase’s current state of limbo quite like this becoming a story last night.

I understand why it blew up — us fans will chase any crumb of insight into the 2024 Bears’ QB plan — but the speculation feels like a major reach to me. We aren’t long removed from Kyler Murray unfollowing the Arizona Cardinals (admittedly during a contract dispute) before re-signing with the team, but beyond that we’ve had much stronger intel recently tell us that Fields is likely on the move.

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HughesReviews: The Zone of Interest and Other Major Cinematic Works of 2023

| February 19th, 2024

I didn’t particularly care for Barbie or Oppenheimer; the former felt cloying and obvious, the latter bloated and often incoherent. But one cannot understate their cultural importance. These two films, and the brilliant, seemingly organic marketing campaign which conjoined them into Barbenheimer, were the Sosa and McGwire of the modern movie landscape. At the physical cinema’s darkest moment, they brought fans back to the ballpark, and they are the legacy of “Movies 2023.”

But aside from these two popular pictures, this was a year where great filmmakers made great films. Each of the films that comprise my top five of the year are by established masters, cinematic artists working at the height of their powers. They are films I look forward to revisiting and writing extensively about. But I’m not a professional movie critic. I don’t spend each week advising the moviegoing public where to spend their movie buck and I’m not interested in wasting energy on the films I don’t like. At the risk of sounding like, well, an asshole, my academic pursuit of cinema enables me to focus entirely on that which interests me. I can dismiss the crap films and never write a sentence about them. Thus, you will not be reading about Maestro below.

And apologies to Frederick Wiseman, whose Menus-Plaisirs – Les Troisgros is certainly another in a long line of master works, but I just couldn’t muster the four hours of energy required to sit in an uncomfortable Film Forum seat. Although these are my favorite films of 2023, my favorite cinematic experience of the year was seeing the 93-year-old Wiseman live at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens.

Note: I know that many of you have not seen most of the films below, so I’ll refrain from giving away too many plot details. But I am happy to discuss movies any time via email – just reach out. 

(10) BlackBerry. One of the great entertainments of 2023, this first major work from Canadian director Matt Johnson serves primarily as a grand showcase for Glenn Howerton, whose towering, menacing performance is a brilliant expansion of the darkness he has honed over decades as Dennis on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

(09) Bottoms. Is this a great movie? No. But it was the funniest film I saw in 2023 and we all need to encourage Hollywood to keep producing damn comedies.

(08) The Killer. David Fincher is a master of the neo-noir, having created moody classics like Se7en, Zodiac and Gone Girl. This film, a perfect addition to that corpus, deserved more attention (see my Netflix rant below), if only for Tilda Swinton’s tour-de-force cameo. The film’s deliberate pacing requires the patience of its subject, but the reward is palpable.

(07) Titanic: The Musical. I was underwhelmed by the Tony-winning Titanic when it ran on Broadway in 1997, opening just months before the film would take over the world. It had a brilliant cast (Michael Cerveris, Brian d’Arcy James, Vicky Clark, etc.) and some powerful Maury Yeston music, but the piece left me, pardon the pun, cold. (If you know me, you know I want no such pardoning. I relished writing that sentence.) This film, a documentation of a touring production in England, is brilliant example of what can be achieved on screen when a director does more than point a single camera at the stage. Directors Austin Shaw and Thom Southerland use the camera to amplify the play’s emotional character and in doing so provide a profound stage AND screen experience.

(06) The Taste of Things. Subtle and sublime, very few films are so willingly, and lovingly, about process. Dramatic encounters are suggested. Deaths occur between edits. But each moment of culinary preparation is displayed in painstaking detail. (I only saw this film Wednesday so still need time to digest the whole affair.) Side note: how did this become the American title? The French title was La Passion De Dodin Bouffant. How does that become The Taste of Things? What does The Taste of Things even mean? Does it mean ANYTHING? Can we get a documentary about the corporate conference room that produced this inane title?

(05) Showing Up. When you are a struggling artist, “showing up” is survival, and Kelly Reichardt’s film is the finest depiction of that struggle I can remember. The director, and her star, Michelle Williams, manage to create a character in pain without allowing the pain to be her definitive characteristic. Lizzy has no hot water. Her brother is psychologically at sea. Her father is being taken advantage of by two drifters. But she still manages to make herself emotionally available to everyone, even the pigeons. She shows up. And you’re foolish if you don’t show up every time you read the phrase “Directed by Kelly Reichardt.”

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2024 Bears Offseason Primer: Rounding Out the Roster

| February 16th, 2024

The Super Bowl is behind us, and the NFL offseason has officially arrived. Now is the favorite time of year for fans of downtrodden teams like the Bears. Over the next few months, every team will magically turn their weaknesses into strengths and enter training camp with hopes of playing in next years’ Super Bowl — if you don’t believe me, just survey each fanbase in July.

The Bears might not be Super Bowl contenders in 2024, but they took a clear step forward in 2023 and have the resources to improve the roster this offseason, setting up another step in the right direction next fall. But before we get into the whirlwind of draft prep (the Combine starts February 26) and free agency (starts March 13), it’s worth taking a look at where the roster currently stands. Let’s examine:

  • What the Bears’ depth chart looks like as of today
  • Which Chicago impact players are set to hit free agency
  • What Chicago’s salary cap situation looks like
  • Bears players that could be considered for cuts or extensions

Current Depth Chart

Let’s start by looking at who the Bears currently have under contract for 2024. This is based on the 53 players currently signed as of February 7, sorted loosely into what a depth chart would look like below.

A few thoughts:

  • This looks much better than the version I did at a comparable time just a year ago, but it still needs quite a bit of work before it’s truly become a good roster.
  • The most notable weaknesses that jump out are WR2, WR3, and C, where the current ‘starting’ players are clearly not starting-caliber.
    • I would also argue CB needs some work, as I would feel a lot better about Terell Smith as the top backup than a starter.
    • Still, this is a much shorter list than last year, when I said the Bears needed to add 11 starters.
  • Beyond that, improved competition for starters and/or rotational depth is needed at RB, TE, interior OL (G/C),  DE, DT, and S.
  • The Bears still lack in top-level players. Their only All-Pro from a year ago, Jaylon Johnson, is slated to be a free agent, and they lack difference makers. I count DJ Moore, Teven Jenkins, and Montez Sweat as high-level players, with the Bears hoping youngsters like Darnell Wright, Gervon Dexter, Tyrique Stevenson, Kyler Gordon, and Jaquan Brisker can rise to that level in due time.

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Shane Waldron’s Offense Is A Fun One

| February 15th, 2024

If Luke Getsy’s offense was like a finely-tuned orchestra, with every aspect of each play meticulously planned & each game script dependent on all 11 offensive players consistently doing their jobs, Shane Waldron’s offense is more like a jazz band.

“Here’s a general idea of what you’re doing, but at the end of the day go be a football player.”

It’s a fun pivot towards an offensive coordinator who empowers his best players to be field-tilters & difference-makers, but don’t let the idea of simplicity fool you — Waldron uses concepts like motion & formation shifts to his players’ advantage well. Below I walk you through a nice example of Waldron baiting out Cincinnati’s 3-by-1 defensive check before then motioning out of that 3-by-1 and forcing plenty of defensive communication, which both allows the Seahawks to identify a key Bengals’ check early in the game while still exploiting the defense and picking up a first down.

It’s a pretty design. Give it a look.

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Recapping Super Bowl & Chicago’s Latest QB Rumors

| February 13th, 2024

Work’s got me twisted up lately, but Nick & I managed to squeeze in a Bear With Us episode last night that focused on the Super Bowl & the latest in Bears rumors. Check it out.

Also, I wrote one of my patented extremely long tweets yesterday — I know Justin Fields is an emotional topic for many, and I wanted to write an olive branch.

It’s not perfectly written, but the heart behind it is authentic — Justin has done nothing to deserve the overbearing critiques he’s getting from many. Frankly, I think plenty of his critics are taking things too far. He’s been nothing but a hardworking representative of the Chicago Bears and we love him for that, even if I believe it’s best that Fields and the Bears part ways this offseason.

From the moment he was drafted, Justin Fields was labeled ‘The Prince That Had Been Promised” by many (including myself). He was supposed to be the franchise savior, Ryan Pace’s bold new direction that would save the franchise from over a decade of organizational failure. He was the golden ticket that would overcome anything, including the impending rebuild that no one wanted to acknowledge — somehow, despite a roster dissolving around him, he would simply rise above it all and lead Chicago forward.

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