Listen, I don't try to live my life as a contrarian. That's not true -- I kind of do. I spend a lot of time in public houses and taverns, and I have a two-hour commute that allows me to hear a lot of the sports world's most popular opinions. Sometimes, I think it's best to take a look at the other side.
In this space, I'll be articulating a handful of positions that are the opposite of what most people think -- unpopular opinions, if you will -- and explain why, well, my unpopular opinions are right and everyone else is wrong.
The NFL is a copycat league. And now that hot-shot, 30-something, offensive-minded coaches have become all the rage, like Brussels sprouts at West L.A. gastropubs, everybody has got to go out and get their own. But you have to get the right one. You don't want to be the team that's late on an emerging trend. I mean, if McVay of the Rams and Kyle Shanahan of the Redskins are the *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys of NFL coaches, you certainly don't want to end up with the 98 Degrees of the mix. Or worse, O-Town.
I can understand if some Bears fans are a little skeptical. After five years of Marc Trestman and John Fox, you can feel like the game is over. An email chain of displaced Second City citizens at work didn't really care for the hire. AT ALL. (As one of my co-workers who has a fancy office here wrote.) But this was the best possible hire. As it became clear to me the Bears were going to make a change, Matt Nagy jumped out at me as the best possible candidate this offseason. Trust me, this is the love that you've been looking for.
For starters, he's the latest coordinator from the Andy Reid coaching tree, which has produced luminaries such as John Harbaugh, Ron Rivera, Doug Pederson and Sean McDermott. Hell, if you're one to believe in trends, consider the last bald coach from the Reid coaching tree (McDermott) made the playoffs in his first season with the Bills, snapping the longest postseason drought in major American sports.
But in all seriousness, Reid did say Nagy was the best of the lot in an interview with Adam Caplan. The evidence is in what he did with the Chiefs during his first season as the team's sole offensive coordinator. Alex Smith had one of the best seasons of his career, with an NFL-best 104.7 passer rating -- and he even threw the ball downfield at times. It was amazing. But it's more than just this year. Nagy has been working with Smith as either his quarterback coach or offensive coordinator since 2013, and in that span, Smith's thrown for 102 touchdowns against 33 interceptions, with a passer rating of 94.8. That's great news for Mitchell Trubisky, who will have a consistent voice in his ear in Chicago. One of the things that really hurt the development of Jay Cutler in the early years of his Bears career was having a new offensive coordinator seemingly every season.
In addition to Smith's development, rookie running back Kareem Huntled the NFL in rushing this season. He also became the first rookie in NFL history with more than 1,300 rushing yards and 400 receiving yards. And yes, getting Jordan Howard to catch the ball might be the biggest obstacle to overcome in Chicago since William Sianis was kicked out of Wrigley Field. But Tyreek Hillranked seventh with 1,183 receiving yards, and Travis Kelce has had 168 receptions and 2,163 receiving yards since 2016. So the pedigree is there. (I feel there's an HHH joke there, seeing how the three of us sport the same hairstyle.)
I know what you're going to say now, so you can just stop right there.
I told you to stop.
But since you brought it up, some were wondering who called the plays for the Chiefs in the second half of their shocking playoff loss to Tennessee, in which Kansas City was shut out and put up just 61 yards of total offense. Thought it felt like Reid did it. But even if it was Nagy (and, for the record, Nagy says it was), so what? The Falcons made some questionable calls in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LI, and it didn't seem to impact Kyle Shanahan's first season in San Francisco. Plus, the Chiefs were dealing with the loss of Kelce. So why don't you just step off?
The Bears moved quickly and made a smart hire. If Vic Fangio returns as defensive coordinator, they're going to be in the mix for the NFC North.
UNPOPULAR OPINION: Bill Belichick's run is far more impressive than Nick Saban's.
Former Belichick disciple Nick Saban has won his sixth college national championship, and his fifth with the Alabama Crimson Tide. Which is pretty incredible. In his 11 years in Tuscaloosa, he has gone 127-20 (.864), a mark that would seem amazing if you played the computer in the old EA Sports NCAA football game. In fact, a new debate has raged: Who is more impressive, Saban or Belichick?
Be serious, please.
The answer is Belichick.
The Patriots are the best sports dynasty ever. The raw numbers for Belichick do not quite match up to Saban's: Belichick has five championships (so far) in 18 seasons with New England and a 214-74 mark (.743). But there are seven conference titles, plus a perfect regular season. Oh, and his team has only missed the playoffs twice since 2001 -- and the Patriots had nine and 11 wins in those seasons. The latter came with Matt Cassel at quarterback. That's right, Matt freaking Cassel.
Here's the thing: Belichick has succeeded in a system designed to thwart dynasties and encourage parity, to give a team set in rural Wisconsin just as good a chance of winning as one set in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles.
Does that sound like college football to you? All of the money goes to the blue bloods. All of the blue-chips go to the blue bloods. You can only make the playoffs if you're part of the blue bloods. I mean, when teams like Boise State and TCU win, it's a nuisance. You aren't supposed to get over. Those programs are jobbers.
If Alabama is The Rock, most college football programs are Hurricane Helms.
And if by some miracle you win in a town like Orlando or Mount Pleasant, Michigan, you're offered money to move on. It's just the way it is. I mean, could you imagine if the NFL had been all, Yeah, we're going to keep the 13-3 Titans out of the playoffs in 2008 because the Patriots were probably better? You would think that system was a joke, right? Or if the Giants plucked away Mike Zimmer from Minnesota just because they could?
It's not the same. Saban has been put in a position to succeed. Now, make no mistake, he's made the most of it. I don't want to take away from what he's accomplished. Because he's clearly the best college coach, well, ever. But you can't compare his success to that of an NFL coach who has had similar winnings. You just can't. If Saban wants to come back to the NFL and give it another go, then we could have that conversation. Instead, you're trying to compare Gordon Ramsay to your neighbor who makes a pretty excellent grilled cheese sandwich. I'm sure that sandwich is great, but come on.
POPULAR OPINION THAT IS CORRECT: The Divisional Round weekend is the best weekend of sports, outside of March Madness.
Get your friends together and get ready for some awesomeness. I know I will.