Not a lot of housecleaning on this happy Wednesday, so let’s get to it …
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Illinois 62, #9 Penn State 56
Well, how about that? Both Ayo and Blago were trending in Illinois on Tuesday night as Dosunmo returned to score 24 points in a huge road win for the Illini.
#7 Maryland 76, Northwestern 67
10 straight losses for the Wildcats, who haven’t won since January 11.
NY Rangers (+110) at Hawks (-130) (7 pm, NBC Sports Network)
First of three games before Monday’s trade deadline. Seems almost like six points are a must if the veterans want to make a case for not selling things off.
No homecoming for He-Man
Despite your best wishes, Greg Olsen and the Bears won’t be staging a homecoming at Soldier Field this fall. The fan-favorite tight end signed a one-year, $7.5 million deal with the Seahawks on Tuesday, ending any speculation Olsen would end his career where it began.
I don’t have a huge problem with this, even if Olsen said he was hoping the Bears would call. (They didn’t.) The 34-year-old has one foot in the broadcasting booth — he’s been calling XFL games for Fox Sports — and hasn’t played an injury-free season since 2016. After the Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen fiascos of the past two seasons, the Bears need someone reliable at that position. Olsen isn’t that.
(Other free agents like Hunter Henry and Tyler Eifert come with their own injury concerns, but at least they’re markedly younger. Austin Hooper is the best of the bunch, but it’s hard to imagine the Bears handing him the huge contract that’ll be needed to pry him away from the Falcons.)
Anyway, even though Olsen and the Bears aren’t reuniting, it doesn’t mean we can’t still reminisce about the good old days.
Or maybe I should say bad old days given how it all worked out.
The Bears picked Olsen 31st overall in the 2007 draft, a rare first-round success for the franchise and a selection that was so good that @NFLDraft named Olsen the best draft pick of that spot in the previous 20 years.
With his complete game, friendly interactions with fans and Prince Adam good looks, Olsen quickly became a Soldier Field standout. He caught 20 touchdown passes from Brian Griese, Kyle Orton and Jay Cutler over his first four seasons — a total that ranks second to Mike Ditka’s 36 for touchdown catches by a Bears tight end.
Olsen’s 58-yard touchdown catch from Jay Cutler against the Seahawks in the 2010 divisional round victory was a huge highlight and it seemed like a new contract and a lifelong appointment to the Bears might be in the offing.
But six months later, at the end of July, offensive coordinator Mike Martz decided Olsen wouldn’t work in any of his schemes and then-GM Jerry Angelo quickly traded Olsen to the Panthers for a third-round pick (73rd overall) in the 2012 draft. Kellen Davis was elevated to the Bears’ top tight end spot.
If you’re keeping score at home — and I know we all have been since Olsen moved south — Angelo was fired after the 2011 season and Martz resigned the same day. Davis caught 37 passes for 435 yards and seven touchdowns over the next two years with the Bears. The third-round pick was traded to Miami in the Brandon Marshall trade.
Olsen, meanwhile, would go on to play nine seasons for the Panthers, catching 39 touchdown passes and recording three straight 1,000-yard seasons from 2014-16 — a resume that will likely land him in the Hall of Fame one day.
For his part, Angelo would later own up to the folly of listening to Martz’s “genius.”
"I understood he wasn't the ideal fit in (Mike Martz's) scheme, but we let our best receiver go. Obviously it was Cutler's favorite receiver at the time. ... That's on me. I understood what the coaches were saying, but you don't let one of your better players out the door."
Sure seems simple enough now in hindsight, eh?
On the list of bad Chicago trades, Olsen ranks high. It might not be quite on the level of Brock for Broglio, but maybe something more akin to Hawk Harrelson trading a 23-year-old Bobby Bonilla in 1986 for freakin’ Jose DeLeon — a foolish and impulsive move that looked as bad at the time as it would prove in the future.
Sure, it might have been nice to see Olsen suit up for the Bears a few more times. But nothing he could have done would have erased the past decade, when the team sure could have used a tight end like the one they gave away for no reason.
The Bulls return from the All-Star break Thursday against the Hornets. Wendell Carter Jr. says he’s hoping to return from his sprained ankle by then, but nothing has been decided yet.
The Cubs are raising minimum salaries for minor-league players by at least 50 percent this year, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reported. The average raise will be around $200 and comes a year before MLB raises minor-league minimums in 2021.
Kris Bryant said he expects to be with the Cubs all season in 2020.
Four defense-hungry teams landed d-men in trades on Tuesday and none of the traded players were the Hawks’ Erik Gustafsson. Not great news for his value going forward, but we’ll see how everything shakes out.
• Joe Maddon defended his “less-is-more” approach to Gordon Wittenmyer after the Cubs recently praised the more hands-on style of new manager David Ross. (Sun-Times)
• Did you see the viral post about a guy’s struggles with his adopted dog? Turns out he’s a White Sox minor leaguer. (Fox 8)
• Ricky O’Donnell is 100 percent right about the Bulls’ rumored reorg: “Chicago didn’t chant ‘Re-Assign Gar to Scouting.’ They didn’t make ‘Promote Paxson To A Position Of Slightly Less Authority’ into a Twitter trending topic. The Bulls need a clean slate and a fresh start, not a half-measure. They need to fire ‘GarPax,’ not hide them.” (SB Nation)
• Could giving Barack Obama a role in the organization help the Bulls finally free some quality free agents? Matt Barnes told Chris Emma that he thinks so. (Honestly, I have no idea how that would even work and I assume it would end poorly, but it’s still a fun thing to suggest.) (670)
• DePaul point guard Marisa Warren has lofty aspirations: “I’ve never met anyone who looks like me who is a pilot,” she tells Shannon Ryan (Tribune)
• Cool news for my guy Matt Spiegel: He’ll get to “live a childhood dream” when he does play-by-play for the Cubs-Mariners game on Sunday, March 1 (670 The Score)
• In the more immediate future, my other guy Sam Fels is doing his own broadcast on the new app “Hot Mic” for tonight’s Hawks game. (Twitter)
• There’s hustle and then there’s Julie Unruh and her cameraman running down Blago in the Denver airport. Great scoop.
• But did he ask to put his seat back?
Thank you for being a #frentofthenewsletter. See you tomorrow morning.