Chicago Bears longsnapping practice
16-year longsnapper Patrick Mannelly has retired.

The Chicago Bears have lost a lot of veteran leaders and stars this past couple seasons since Marc Trestman took over as head coach. I wasn't terribly surprised when Brian Urlacher became a free agent and retired, although I was extremely disappointed that he would not be back in a Bears' uniform. Earlier this offseason, return specialist Devin Hester was released and signed with the Atlanta Falcons. Hester was one of the most electric players in the league in his prime, and he was a huge factor in making me watch football (and specifically the Bears) on a more regular basis. These guys were probably my two favorite players, and neither of them is a Bear anymore.

And now, yet another elite veteran leader has departed from the team. 16-year veteran longsnapper Patrick Mannelly has retired.

Longsnappers are unheralded players. You won't find any action figures or jerseys for Mannelly in sporting goods stores, nor would you even find Mannelly in the rosters of some Madden NFL video game (that I can recall); although, I would always add him to my roster every year before starting a franchise. But whether he's a household name or not, Mannelly was a cornerstone of the Chicago Bears' special teams for 16 years! His precision has been a key factor to the success of the special teams unit, which has been widely considered an elite unit during Lovie Smith's era. In his 2006 Pro Bowl acceptance speech, kicker Robbie Gould praised Mannelly specifically for his role in Gould's kicking success (Gould is currently one of the most accurate field goal kickers in NFL history).

Chicago Bears longsnapping practice
Patrick Mannelly practicing longsnapping with holder/punter Adam Podlesh and placekicker Robbie Gould.

Mannelly had suffered from injuries the past few seasons, but when he was playing, he was as good as perfect...

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Sunday, December 8, 2013 05:15 AM

Texas has invited UNLV to go bowling!

in Sports by MegaBearsFan

Freemont Cannon pre-game firing

The Freemont Cannon, properly painted red, is fired during the pre-game ceremonies of the UNLV vs. San Jose State.

UNLV Running Rebels logo

Back in October, I expressed some doubt that UNLV's head coach, Bobby Hauck, would be able to retain his job despite a four-game winstreak. I also expressed doubt that UNLV would be able to attend a bowl this year. This team has been a disappointment for over a decade, so I've become quite used to keeping my hopes low.

But then UNLV went on to do all the things that I'd hoped they would do!

Since my last post, UNLV did beat rival Nevada and return the Freemont Cannon to its rightful place in Sam Boyd Stadium. UNLV did hit the 7-5 mark and achieve their first winning season in over a decade. And they did that by absolutely crushing San Diego state (one of the best teams in the league) in the season-closing game at Sam Boyd. As such, Hauck has been rewarded with a new three-year contract with UNLV. Congratulations, coach!

UNLV quarterback Caleb Herring celebrates

UNLV quarterback Caleb Herring celebrates with teammates after beating San Diego State.

Well, I was wrong. UNLV has been invited to a bowl. The Armed Forces Bowl decided to invite a non-Mountain West team (Tennessee State), and so the Heart of Dallas Bowl is inviting a Mountain West representative instead: and that Mountain West team is UNLV. UNLV will be playing the bowl against North Texas on January 1st, 2014 in their first bowl appearance since 2000.

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Chicago Bears alt logo

Jay Cutler can take as long as he wants to return from his groin injury. No rush.

Josh McCown is looking fantastic in Cutler's absence. He played very well against the Redskins, but the defense just couldn't stop them. He also played exceptionally well against the Packers, including managing a late game scoring drive that ate up almost a full 9 minutes of the fourth quarter clock to seal the win for the Bears.

In fact, McCown played a near perfect game against the Packers. Trestman's gameplan was very aggressive, and he put the game squarely in McCown's hands early on. He hardly missed any throws, and the few incompletions were usually the result of a receiver dropping the ball (Marshall had several drops). I only noticed two or three throws that looked significantly off the mark, and every one of them was a very safe miss. On top of that, McCown made several good plays under duress, including some scrambles for first downs and weaving around the pocket in order to sling the ball out to a receiver. And he did all of this without losing his chewing gum!

Bears 27 - Packers 20: Josh McCown
Josh McCown has looked exceptional as a replacement for Jay Cutler!
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UNLV Running Rebels logo

Next year is going to be a big year for NCAA Football.

The BCS is going away, and a playoff will take over as the determinant of the nation's best college football team.

But how different will things be for my alma matter, UNLV? Well, they certainly won't be competing for a spot in those playoffs, and they probably weren't going to any bowls either. So the big question is: will they have a new head coach?

If you had asked me that question prior to the start of this year, I would have given an emphatic "Yes!".

Heck, I was ready to say "fire him" after last year's heartbreaking loss to Nevada

Caleb Herring against Central Michigan

Caleb Herring has almost single-handedly saved UNLV's season.
Unfortunately, both he and star running back Tim Cornett are seniors.

Bobby Hauck's first 3 years calling signals for UNLV has been less than satisfactory. Each year, the team has finished with a measly two wins, he hadn't won a single road game, and UNLV was prone to giving games away in the second half - even to teams that they should have beaten. The best thing that you could say about UNLV over the past 3 years is that they made some players on some division AA schools very happy! UNLV showed no improvement during those first three years, and in fact, the team seemed to be going backwards. Any hopes of a turnaround season were dashed by the third or fourth week of the season.

After the first five halves of football this season, it was looking like UNLV had fallen even deeper into a tailspin, and I had doubts that Hauck would last through the end of the season - let alone survive long enough to see the fancy new stadium be built.

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Chicago Bears alt logo

I have to say that I am not surprised that the Chicago Bears decided to fire Lovie Smith after the second late-season collapse by the team that lead the division the first half of the year. I also agree with the decision, mostly. During the entire tenure of Lovie Smith, the Bears' offense has been incompetant. Lovie is a great defensive mind, but I'm just not sold on his ability as a head coach. And judging by the fact that no other teams hired him, I guess I'm not the only one who had doubts.

The Bears went through several offensive coordinators during Smith's time, including the revolutionary mind of Mike Martz, but the team's offense remained abysmal throughout. They changed quarterbacks, changed offensive linemen, changed running backs, and rotated through a number of receivers. They even changed stadiums. The only constant was Smith.

The firing of Lovie Smith just further expands my concerns with the Bears' defense. I've already expressed fear that the defense is getting old and that veterans like Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, and Charles Tillman just might not have much left in their tanks. The window is definitely closing for these players, and they can't afford to wait around for several "rebuilding" years in order to become championship contenders again. I want to see Brian Urlacher win a SuperBowl with the Chicago Bears, but if the team's new coaching staff isn't able to fix Chicago's offensive woes, while maintaining strength on defense, then it doesn't look like Urlacher will get that ring. At least, not with the Bears.

Marc Trestman hired as Chicago Bears' head coach
New Chicago Bears head coach, Marc Trestman.
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