On Saturday morning I woke up around seven, checked my phone, put my slippers on, puttered into the living room (I consider myself old enough to putter around the house at this point), flipped on SportsCenter (is it just me or has it gotten good again?), and started to make breakfast (veggie omelette. It was dope). As I was preparing to fold the eggs over, my attention was quickly diverted to the living room. Now, I am kinda a big breakfast person and it takes a lot for me to lose focus when I am locked into preparing my morning feast. However, the news coming from my living room was not fucking around. It wasn't simply news, but a life-altering announcement; Khalil Mack had been traded to the Chicago Bears.
As that news slowly sunk in, a million things crossed my mind:
- The Bears are going to the playoffs
- I have not been so this excited at 7 am since my first TBOX pregame in 2012
- When was the last time SportsCenter actually broke news to me?
- The Bears are going to the playoffs
- Was I really the first of my friends to find out about this trade, as my phone had not buzzed yet with texts
- Did I not have as many friends as I thought I had because no one had texted me yet?
- No Jim, you have friends, but they are all sleeping, so you get to be a taller version of Adam Schefter today. Text everyone
- I just provided Christmas morning to half of my phone. I am a skinny version of Santa Claus
- The Bears are beating the Green Bay Packers on Sunday
- The Bears are winning the Super Bowl
As I write this, I can't stop smiling, even though several days have passed since the trade was completed. I am literally smiling, ear to ear, as I think back to those first moments when it registered in my brain that one of the top players in the NFL was heading to the Bears. It didn't matter to me what we gave up (it wasn't as bad as I even thought) or how much we were about to pay him. That morning, the Bears went from a top ten defense with no pro bowl players to a defense that now contained the hydrogen bomb of defensive weapons. On Friday, the Bears biggest weakness on defense was it's lack of pass rushers and by Saturday morning, they now had one of the league's elite talents when it comes to rushing the passer.
The best part of everything I write today is that nothing is an exaggeration. Mack is a proven talent. He is already considered a top defensive player in the NFL, if not, the best. He was All-Pro at two different defensive positions in 2015, which had literally never happened in NFL history until he pulled it off in just his second season. At the age of 27, he has already won the defensive player of the year award, been named to two all-pro teams, and been selected to three pro bowls. He has 40.5 sacks career sacks and almost most importantly, he hasn't missed a game due to injury in his four years in the league. He will be on the field every Sunday and in the nightmares of opposing quarterbacks every night. Mack is not just a new monster of the Midway; he is Godzilla.
When Brian Urlacher was elected into the NFL Hall of Fame last month, I wasn't quite sure how long it would be until I saw the next Bear get enshrined in Canton. Lance Briggs should eventually get in, but his place in the hall is not an absolute lock. However, the Mack deal changes that next bear in the hall timeline quite a bit. Although only four seasons into his NFL career, I can't imagine a scenario where Mack's bust doesn't join Urlacher in Ohio. He is one of the most feared players in the NFL. His accolades and numbers to date speak for themselves and he is only beginning to enter his prime. He shined on a sub-par defensive unit in Oakland, where he was one of the only things the offense had to account for. With Vic Fangio as a coordinator and a top supporting cast around him, Mack's play and numbers should only continue to improve. He instantly transforms our defensive into one of the top units in the NFL and is the unquestioned face of the Bears defense moving forward.
The excitement Mack has brought to our city is hard to quantify, but it is safe to say there is a buzz around this team that has been absent the last several Chicago Septembers. The Chicago Cubs are in first place and are on their way toward making another run in October, yet all I can focus on is our match-up with Green Bay on Sunday. Mack is worth the two first round picks we gave up for him and instantly vaults us into the playoff conversation, even in the stacked NFC North. The Bears haven't been to the playoffs since 2010. It is time to go Mack.