Friendly rivals? Not Ditka-Gregg, but no less intense

Friendly rivals? Not Ditka-Gregg, but no less intense

Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011
Posted: 11:03 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

It is difficult to have a hate-filled rivalry when the two central figures in the building drama get along. Quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers are in touch with each other away from Fields Soldier and Lambeau.

Yeah, I texted him after the divisional game in Atlanta and said good game, Cutler said. Well have a friendly little banter.

All of the banter wont be totally friendly when the Bears host their greatest rival next Sunday at Soldier Field at 2 p.m.

Yet where once the rivalry was marked by dirty football, with gridiron thugs like Charles Martin body-slamming Jim McMahon or Ken Stills late-hitting Matt Suhey (and some Bears perpetrating mayhem on the occasional Packer), and coarse exchanges between a Mike Ditka and Forrest Gregg, now the antipathy is tinged with respect.

We dont like them, said center Olin Kreutz. Theres a tremendous amount of respect for each other. But it usually works out that the guy you respect the most is the guy you hate the most.

For safety Danieal Manning, Its a love-hate thing. All the players know each other, the coaches know each other, the owners know each other.

We respect them because they are so good. And thats part of why we dont like them.

When the Bears lost to the Packers back on Jan. 2 in Green Bay, they missed a chance to eliminate the Packers from the playoffs. As they left the field that night, the Bears had a sense that they would see the Packers again.

We did, Kreutz said. We knew that if we won and they play like theyre capable of playing, we might see them again.

Finally, the NFCs two best

The Bears win over the Seattle Seahawks and the Packers road wins over Philadelphia and Atlanta have brought together what can only be called the two best teams in the NFC, critics notwithstanding.

The Packers may have stumbled at times this season (perhaps not surprising with their franchise quarterback suffering two concussions and one-fourth of a roster winding up on IR).

So have the Bears, losing those three of the first seven.

The Bears offensive line and the Packers running game have a lot in common: weaknesses that supposedly would undo each.

Neither did. And the NFC juggernauts in Atlanta, New Orleans, New York and Philadelphia werent better than these two.

There was a lot of good teams, said defensive end Julius Peppers. We earned this. Both of us earned this opportunity to be right where we are.

Well said.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information

Bears add another assistant coach to John Fox's staff

Bears add another assistant coach to John Fox's staff

John Fox and the Bears have added another assistant coach.

Zack Azzanni is leaving the University of Tennessee to become the Bears' new receivers coach.

Azzanni has been with Tennessee since 2013 as a receivers coach and passing game coordinator. Prior to that, he spent time at Wisconsin, Western Kentucky, Florida, Central Michigan and six seasons at Bowling Green.

Azzanni was on Urban Meyer's coaching staff at Bowling Green in 2001-02 and also coached Pittsburgh Steelers superstar receiver Antonio Brown at Central Michigan. Under Azzanni's tutelage at CMU from 2007-09, Brown totaled 305 receptions for 3,199 yards and 22 TDs, earning a sixth-round draft selection in 2010.

Curtis Johnson spent 2016 as his first season in the role of Bears' wide receivers coach, but announced he was leaving after the Senior Bowl to take a job with the New Orleans Saints.

It's unknown if Azzanni will get a chance to coach Alshon Jeffery (who is currently a free agent) but the incoming coach will have an important job in molding young receivers like Kevin White and Cameron Meredith.

The Bears also announced the additions of assistant coaches Brandon Staley and Derius Swinton II Wednesday morning:

Staley will replace Clint Hurtt as outside linebackers coach and Swinton will be the assistant special teams coach under Jeff Rodgers.

Swinton is reprising his role he held on the Bears coaching staff in 2015 before leaving to take a promotion with the San Francisco 49ers special teams. 

Hurtt left the Bears to take a position as the defensive line coach with the Seattle Seahawks. Staley spent last season as the defensive coordinator at Division-III John Carroll University, the alma mater of New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Hall of Fame coach Don Shula.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will there be any takers for Bears QB Jay Cutler?

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will there be any takers for Bears QB Jay Cutler?

In the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Hub Arkush (670 The Score/Pro Football Weekly) and Brian Hedger (NHL.com) join Kap on the panel.

ESPN is reporting that the Bears have begun shopping Jay Cutler. Will there be any takers? 

Meanwhile, Jimmy Butler doesn’t think he’s going anywhere. Would that be a mistake?

Miguel Montero makes his peace with Joe Maddon but was this even a big deal? Sammy Sosa says he put Chicago on the map, and compares himself to Jesus. When he will the Cubs welcome him home?

Plus, Pat Boyle drops by to talk Blackhawks and the “Roly Poly Goalie” is looking for work all because he ate a pie.

Check out the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: