Boden: Will 'bold' work for the Bears, too?

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Boden: Will 'bold' work for the Bears, too?

The 49ers and Ravens punched their Super Bowl tickets Sunday. But that route to New Orleans got a shot in the arm during the season with two bold, some would say controversial, moves that couldve rocked each team and blown up this eventual ride.

Oh, those Harbaugh boys.

As the Bears well know, Jim rolled the dice with the Colin Kaepernick-for-Alex Smith swap at quarterback right before that mid-November Monday Nighter. Nine starts later, hell be on the sports biggest stage. Smith was the safe route. The sophomore signal-caller from Milwaukee via Nevada had the higher ceiling. Only Harbaugh seemed to know how quickly he was capable of reaching it. And he probably hasnt yet, but hes gone high enough to get the Niners back in "The Big One."

In early December, John didnt like what he saw in the Ravens offense, either. His move didnt involve Joe Flacco but the (get this, Bears fans) the offensive coordinator. With three games left, Cam Cameron was out, and ex-Colts head coach Jim Caldwell was in. Now, the return to health of Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, and adjustments to injuries in the secondary are certainly a huge factor, but Flaccos found another level under Caldwell.

Two moves by the Harbaughs to get the most out of their quarterbacks has wound up getting the most from their respective teams.

Rather than look back and debate whether moving Jay Cutlers trusted coach Jeremy Bates into a play-calling position above Mike Tice wouldve saved the season, lets look ahead and talk about Phil Emerys bold decision last week.

His hand-picked man over 13 or 14 other interviewees - Marc Trestman was not even interviewed by any of the other clubs looking for a new head coach. If not for Emery, Trestmans likely preparing for a sixth season running the Montreal Alouettes.

A season wasnt on the line like it was in San Francisco and Baltimore, but Emerys positive reputation (so far) as general manager is, for the NFLs charter franchise. Bears players are publicly buying in to the new man in charge but privately, they have to be wondering why no one else was interested in Trestman, and why hes been MIA from the NFL the past eight years, save for one season advising Sean Payton in New Orleans. Trestman was interviewed in Indianapolis a year ago for the job that eventually went to Chuck Pagano.

Bruce Arians would have been the safer candidate with the more recent proven track record in the league. These Bears can see what he did with the Colts and Andrew Luck, and prior to that, Ben Roethlisberger. But Trestman won the interview sweepstakes with Emery, and hell have to win the Lovie-lovin Bears players over, through OTAs and minicamps before they even report to Bourbonnais. And well see if Emerys bold, reputation-staking hire is the right one.

That brings us to next season. The Bears that got Lovie Smith fired won 10 games. Would fans - and the organization view anything less in 2013 as a disappointment? Would missing the playoffs again be more acceptable if noticeable offensive strides are made under Trestman, but a defense facing turnover at certain spots (while generating fewer turnovers) cant match what it did this year? That wouldve been difficult even if Smith, Rod Marinelli, and that staff remained intact.

But its something Bears fans should probably begin grasping. First-year turnarounds arent uncommon these days. The Harbaughs did it in their first seasons in Baltimore and San Francisco. Is that what youre expecting after Emerys bold decision? And is that fair? Thatll no doubt be Trestmans goal, but how much rope will you give the man if hes like every other first-year Bears coach since George Halas, and fail to make the playoffs?

What will you be saying and thinking a year from now if thats what happens?

Did Brandon Marshall disrespect Jay Cutler with Hall of Fame shade?

Did Brandon Marshall disrespect Jay Cutler with Hall of Fame shade?

Brandon Marshall is no stranger to keeping it real.

The outspoken All-Pro receiver never minces his words and that continued over the weekend when he showed off his signed jersey collection.

Marshall took to Instagram and showed off "Santa" hanging all of the jerseys he's swapped with other NFL players:

Santa doing work.. . #jerseychallenge

A post shared by Brandon Marshall (@bmarshall) on

The list includes a host of current and future Hall of Fame players: Champ Bailey, Cris Carter, John Lynch, Darrelle Revis, Lance Briggs, Adam Vinatieri, Adrian Peterson, Larry Fitzgerald, Joe Thomas.

When almost all the framed jerseys were hung, Marshall took his followers through:

@nfl #jerseychallenge

A post shared by Brandon Marshall (@bmarshall) on

Marshall compliments each player before, calling them "Hall of Famers" before getting to Jay Cutler at the end and going "Hall of..." multiple times.

Was that Marshall throwing shade at his former quarterback in both Denver and Chicago? If it was an innocent mistake or whatever, there's no way Marshall would've posted the Instagram video, right?

Marshall and Cutler were good friends from the beginning of their careers with the Broncos. So much so that the Bears traded a pair of third round draft picks in March 2012 to allow the two to continue their bromance by the lake:

But Marshall and Cutler have had a contentious relationship since.

Last summer, Marshall responded to a Tweet saying "of course" he misses Cutler. Last August, Marshall hopped on ESPN's First Take and said he thought Cutler could win the MVP Award in the 2016 NFL season.

At the same time, Cutler talked about his relationship with Cutler and said he was the only person on the Bears with the "huevos" to hold the enigmatic quarterback accountable. Marshall also said he was "sad" he didn't talk to Cutler much in the year leading up to August 2016.

Bears’ Markus Wheaton says wide receiver group is 'definitely underrated'

Bears’ Markus Wheaton says wide receiver group is 'definitely underrated'

No doubt, there are doubts about the makeup of this 2017 Bears wide receiver corps. But as the departed Alshon Jeffery created doubts, health-wise, the past two years about whether he could stay on the field to prove himself worthy of a big payday (which he didn’t even get from the Eagles), Ryan Pace brought in a handful of replacements who’ve flashed in this league before. But recent history’s shown each of them has something to prove as well.

From Rueben Randle to fellow former Giant Victor Cruz. From former first rounders Kendall Wright to Kevin White, taking a third swing at making it though an entire NFL season.

Then there’s Markus Wheaton, the only free agent signee at the position this season to receive a two-year deal ($11 million total, with $6 million guaranteed). Like the rest of the group, though, he’s at a career crossroads. Following seasons with 53 and 44 catches in Pittsburgh in 2014 and 2015 (with a 17-yard average in the latter), the quick-twitch former Steeler was limited to three games a year ago before eventually undergoing surgery for a torn labrum in January.

“Everyone’s new, so we don’t know what it’s gonna be,” he said of the group at the team’s recent minicamp in Lake Forest. “In Pittsburgh you kind of have a clue `cause they’ve done it for so long. Everybody’s new, everybody’s trying to find their niche, so we’ll see how it goes. Anything’s possible. We’ve got a lot of guys who are looking for opportunity. A lot of guys that are hungry and have something to prove. Anything’s possible. Anyone can come out on top. The ultimate goal is to win games and I’m sure the coaches will put us in position to do that.”

The former third-round pick out of Oregon State (where he’s the Beavers’ all-time career leader in receptions, one ahead of Brandin Cooks) played all three receiver positions in Pittsburgh at various times, and while he seems most natural in the slot, is working to make himself as versatile as possible here. But that comes with some risk as a quarterback room that’s also gone through its share of turnover tries to get on the same page with all the targets. But Wheaton is more than confident the results will come from within this group.

“I think we definitely are underrated," Wheaton said. "We’ve come in and worked to get to where we wanna be. We will get there, and it’ll show up on the field.”

The incumbents in the room include Joshua Bellamy, Deonte Thompson, Daniel Braverman, Cam Meredith, and, of course, White. Wheaton can see the potential in the ex-seventh overall draft pick.

“I couldn’t imagine all the stuff he’s been through, all the pressure that’s been put on him," Wheaton said. "But he’s a down-to-earth guy who works extremely hard, so I think he’s gonna get his. He’s a big-time playmaker, so I’m excited to see him play.

“They welcomed me with open arms. Everybody’s down to earth, been easy to talk to so when I have questions, I’ve been getting answers, so it’s been real easy for me.”

That surgically-repaired shoulder was cleared for full participation just in time for minicamp two weeks ago. And Wheaton won’t allow himself to become hesitant physically as he aims to conquer what hesitation he could have within the offense, working with quarterbacks not named Ben Roethlisberger.

“I really don’t think there’s time for that. When you’re ready to go, you just go,” Wheaton told us. “You come in, you work, you rehab. And for me personally I had to rehab a lot to get back to where I wanted to be. There’s a level I want to be at. I’ve been just working to get there, so there’s no time for that.”

That last statement comes even if some observers hesitate to call Wheaton and these wideouts “underrated.” They’ll start attempting to prove that when the Bears report to Bourbonnais exactly one month from Monday.