NFL lore suggests God spoke to Reggie White and told him to go to Green Bay. (Then coach Mike Holmgren once admitted it was really just him on White's answering machine, but don't take that away from me.) I don't know what kind of divine intervention led the Raiders to trade Khalil Mack to Chicago, but there's no doubt Bears fans are thanking the lord right now for their good fortune.
Many of us woke up last Saturday to the news of Mack coming to the Bears and it was like Christmas morning in early September. Fans weren't the only ones celebrating.
Not sure if Charles Leno Jr. was still dancing once Mack reported to practice this week. But Bears fans were still euphoric, walking around with that kind of buzzy feeling you get after you down a cake shake at Portillo's. I mean, sure, you're paying a little bit of a price, but it was worth it. There were many handshakes and bro hugs from Chicagoland natives when I returned to work this week. Everybody wanted to talk about the Mack trade. Well, almost everyone. One Bears fan accused me of stealing his chair, but outside of that, nothing but pure joy.
I have to imagine this is what it felt like for Green Bay fans when White joined the Packers. The Packers were coming off one of the worst stretches in their illustrious franchise history when they traded for Brett Favre in 1992, locking up their promising young quarterback. But the bigger move came when they lured White away from the Eagles in 1993. Green Bay might have been the NFL version of Siberia, but White made it a cool destination. Suddenly, other free agents wanted to play in Green Bay. White paved the way, and the Packers have enjoyed a nearly unmatched, disgusting (to NFC North fans who aren't rooting for the Pack) level of success since that time. A few seasons after signing White, the team was playing in the NFC Championship Game. Four seasons later, the Packers won the Super Bowl.
Consider the similarities.
The Bears have been going through their biggest rough patch since the early 1970s. I don't want to say the Bears aren't a cool team. But did Marc Trestman and John Fox seem cool to you? Those two seem like a buddy-cop tandem where Fox is the burnout and Trestman is the nerdy accountant on a ride-along. For being a big-market team, the Bears don't have that "it" factor that lures free agents in other sports. Every conceivable free agent in the NBA or MLB will at one point be linked to the Lakers or Yankees, respectively. You never got that with the Bears. I'm pretty sure Chicago's most notable free-agent haul prior to this offseason was Markus Wheaton.
The only mark the Bears have made on the NFL landscape in recent seasons are losses to the Packers (although we got them on Brett Favre appreciation night) and being derided for trading a bevy of picks to move up one spot in the 2017 NFL Draftto take Mitch Trubisky. Although looking back now, trading for Trubisky was the start of all this. Fine, they gave up some extra picks. But they got their young quarterback. The only thing missing was their defensive standout.
Now they have him.
There is instant credibility with the Bears. And this front office looks like it wants to win. Many in Chicago felt great about the offseason, which netted head coach Matt Nagy to go along with offensive upgrades like Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton. The Bears had already received straight As for their work since the end of the 2017 campaign. Now they're the valedictorian.
Yes, Mack is the cherry on top of the cake shake. And despite all the feels that come with getting a player of Mack's caliber, don't overlook why Bears fans love getting him. He was the 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, a two-time first-team All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler. He brings a much-needed pass-rushing presence to the Bears, probably the missing link in Vic Fangio's defense. The Bears ranked 10th in total defense last year. And they were good. (Did you see them hold Jimmy Garoppolo's 49ers to just five field goals in Week 13?) But beyond the stats and accomplishments, keep in mind that this is Chicago. The city is defined by good defense as much as deep dish pizza, hot dogs and wind. It's the city of broad shoulders, and those shoulders have harangued quarterbacks for generations. This Bears team was fine before the Mack trade. But it wasn't Chicago good.
The Bears' defense suddenly leaps to the front of the line with the Jaguars and Vikings as one of the league's best. That's right, one of the best. It was already a pretty good defense with Akiem Hicks, Leonard Floyd, Adrian Amos and first-round pick Roquan Smith in the mix. Now you add the best defensive player on the planet. You had the Justice League, now you just added Superman.
What a time it is for the Bears. It's weird to see the Bears' front office actually execute a solid plan. Obviously, they have followed the model of the Seahawks, who were able to build a potent defense while their quarterback was on his rookie deal. (The Rams are doing the same thing with Jared Goff and their defense.)
Don't fret, Raiders
I know it looks horrible for you, Raiders. People were roasting you online for giving up Mack. But you did get a couple of first-round picks. People have been quick to write off teams, and that has come back to bite them. People thought the Vikings were done last year after Sam Bradford was lost for the season, but Case Keenum got them to within a game of the Super Bowl. Nobody thought the Eagles had much of a chance when Carson Wentz went down last year. They won the Super Bowl. And when the Dolphins lost Ryan Tannehill and had to bring in Jay Cutler, well -- all right, this isn't always perfect. But there's a lot of football to be played.