12/22/21: Patrick Mannelly opens up on the state of the Bears, the Trestman era and what it takes to be a great long snapper

The prominent former Bear has some thoughts on the current state of the franchise.

Patrick Mannelly interview Chicago Bears
(USA Today Sports)

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Good morning, frents!

And welcome to the last Midway Minute before Christmas. It will return on Monday, December 27 with the Bears-Seahawks recap. I'm not planning on a preview for that game but you can follow me on Twitter for our usual picks and pregame fun.

Thank you so much for all of your support the last two years. It's really been a light in an otherwise super weird time and I'm looking forward to what's ahead.

My glass of egg nog is raised to you. Have a great Christmas and holiday (but not before you read Brendan's great interview with Patrick Mannelly). 🎄   - Kevin.

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'I think we're getting sick of it'

Patrick Mannelly talks about the current state of the Bears, Marc Trestman's big mistakes and the award that features his name

By Brendan Sugrue

No one is more synonymous with long snapping than former Chicago Bear Patrick Mannelly. The former specialist spent 15 years looking upside down and backward, thrusting a ball between his legs to a punter or kicker, and nobody did it better than him. Now retired, Mannelly still remains close to the Bears, hosting pre and postgame shows for 670 The Score for each game.

Mannelly is also so closely associated with long snapping that he was approached about creating an award for college players a few years after he retired. Naturally, it was named the Patrick Mannelly Award. (This year's winner was Cal Adomitis from Pitt.)

I spoke with Mannelly about the award, how it came to be, before diving into his thoughts about the state of the Bears organization and some stories from his playing days.

MM: So how did your award come to be?

Mannelly: It started with Chris Rubio, who was kind of like the number one long snapping coach in the nation. He puts camps on all around the country, and he's excellent at what he does. And the other guy is Kevin Gold. He's an NFL agent. He's actually the agent for Patrick Scales. He's kind of big in the long snapper community. So those two guys called me four years ago and they said 'Look, there's a kicker award, there's a punter award, there's a center award, there's a linebacker award, there's a defensive back award, there's all the awards for these guys in college.'

[Long snapper] is a true position. It’s a position, to me it's on par with those other positions. It's a highly skilled position that you can't kick or punt a ball without a long snapper. So, we all were in agreement with that. And (Gold) said, ‘let's get this thing started.’ I was like, ‘Let's do it’. He said, ‘Well, we want to name it the Mannelly award.’ I was like, ‘Woah, okay, that's really cool. That's an awesome honor. But let's get this thing done.’ And that's kind of how it came about.

MM: You’ve also partnered with Bernie’s Book Bank and Zebra Technologies for this award as well

Mannelly: I'll just give you the whole story real quick about Bernie's Book Bank. When we started, we found out that you need to be teamed up with a charity, you have to have a charity element. So I was like, okay, cool, I know in Chicago, we can find some great ones. And I just laughed because I was sitting at a golf tournament for a charity event for Bernie's Book Bank that we teamed up with and we're sitting there afterward having a cold beer. I'm talking to the CEO and the founder about the award and what we're trying to do. I explained how we needed to find a charity and they're looking at me like ‘Hey, dumbass. Hey!’ And finally, my light bulb went off. I'm like, ‘Oh, wait, we should talk!’ Without them, we would not be where we are now. Bernie's Book Bank carries a lot of legwork setting up the graphics to the ceremony to just kind of keeping us all together. Their whole staff has been amazing.

And then now we're teamed up with Zebra Technologies. They're a presenting sponsor and that has been awesome. If people know don't know, Zebra Technologies does all the tracking in the NFL players. Like if you're watching Jakeem Grant last week, you saw the numbers of him running down the sideline, how far he ran, how fast he ran, the ball placement, all that kind of stuff. Zebra does that with the NFL. I'm hoping to work with them to put a chip in the ball so you can start reading the laces for long snappers.

The Patrick Mannelly Award (Facebook)

MM: What qualities do you look for in nominees for the award?

Mannelly: As far as breaking down a long snapper, all these kids are so darn good. It’s now become a specialty. I mean, they start going to these camps when they're 10 years old. And they get good coaching where most of the time before that it was self-taught. But all these guys are super accurate.

What I like to watch is obviously how well they stand up, how accurate they are, how they are in big moments, big field goals, fourth-down punts late in the game, things like that.  It's just the mentality you put on the tape. So, after the snap, what do they turn into? Some guys turn into football players and some guys stay specialists. Some guys don't like contact, some guys run away from things. So that's a big one I think that differentiates the three guys were the finalists this year and there were a few other guys who were really close.

MM: Let's move to the NFL to what's going on with our Chicago Bears this year. As a player, how would you handle what's going down at Halas Hall this year, given the uncertainty?

Mannelly: It depends on how old you are. My rookie year, I went through a coaching change that I didn't know what the heck was going on. You're just swimming, you're trying to just go out there and perform on Sunday, make sure you're being a good teammate throughout the week, and you really don't know what it's like. What does it mean when you get a new GM? What does it mean when you get a new head coach? What does it mean when you get a new position coach? Am I still going to be here? But as you get older, and I went through quite a few more of those, you get it, you understand what's going on.

But I want to make sure I'm still working as hard as I did week one training camp or whatever. Because that puts you on notice not only with your teammates, but there might also be a holdover of special teams coach or assistant coach here. And I would always be afraid that guy could tell the next guy that I was slacking off or will give some inside information of what I'm like around the locker room during bad times compared to good times.

It's just very weird because you're pretty certain your head coach isn't going to be there. He’s giving you the message every Wednesday of what we're doing this week. And you're like, ‘Wait a minute, he's not gonna be a coach next year.’ So, it's just an odd feeling of what's going on.

MM: A couple weeks ago, you did an interview with Parkins And Spiegel on 670 The Score and you mentioned that you wanted the Bears to bring in somebody like a former player as an advisor to the team. I think it's a great idea, but who do you have in mind for a role like that and why?

Mannelly: It kind of hit me when we talked to Gary Fencik with a ‘where are they now’ segment on the pregame show. He's a brilliant man, right? Obviously, he’s had a great career and has gone on to be a successful businessman. When he was just speaking, you could hear the passion and knowledge he had for the Bears, how he still feels connected to the Bears, how he still studies the Bears. And I'm like, ‘Why is somebody like him not having lunch with George McCaskey or Ted Phillips?’

Bring somebody in or just go to lunch, just to pick your brain on what you see from the outside. That's what I would like to see. As far as I know, they've never really reached out to anybody in my era. That's kind of what I was getting at.

MM: You also did another interview recently when you sat down with Dan Wiederer of The Chicago Tribune. You were very candid about the team’s struggles with the front office, but so were many others. Were you surprised by the overall reaction from not only former players like yourself and Gary, but other league individuals who are connected?

Mannelly: No, because I think we're getting sick of it. You look back all the way to 2012, we fired Lovie Smith with a 10-6 record, then you go through two bad years, you fire a general manager and a head coach. Then you get to 2017, you fire another coach. Now you get to 2021 and looks like they’re going to be cleaning house again.

It's just sad that there's been this much turnover within that little amount of time. But I think that's why people are questioning it because the same people keep making the wrong decisions. And they have to look in the mirror at the top of Halas Hall. George McCaskey is 3-18 vs. the Packers since he’s taken over. That's unacceptable. If we as players did our jobs wins-loss wise the way they're doing their job, we'd be fired. It's that simple. There are two ways to look at the NFL in my mind. It's about making money as an owner, right? But number two is wins. You love to do both, but which one are you prioritizing? Making money or wins and losses?

To me if I'm an owner, it's wins and losses. You're already a billionaire. It should be about wins and losses. That's all that matters. And that's the way everybody in that building is evaluated and I just don't think they're doing that. I don't think they're taking an honest look in all these positions.

MM: I really want to get into your playing days because you spent so much time with the Bears. What was your favorite moment on the field during your Bears career?

Mannelly: Running out on the tunnel? Well, I take that back. It was actually the coin flip for the Super Bowl. I was out there for the coin flip. And that to me was surreal. I think if you go to my Twitter bio, It's the picture of the coin flip with Peyton Manning on one side, Olin [Kreutz], [Brian] Urlacher, Moose [Muhsin Muhammad] and Dan Marino's doing the coin flip.

Patrick Mannelly/Twitter

In that picture. I literally felt like I was watching that moment from (the camera angle). Like, ‘I can't believe I'm out here. I can't believe I'm standing with these greats. I can't believe I'm about to play in the biggest game in the world.’ So that was probably the neatest moment. Then after that, when Devin Hester goes out on that kick, I'm running on the sidelines. I'm like, ‘holy [blank]!’ I forgot I'm going out to the next play. Where's my helmet? I’m not even thinking about that. So that whole thing was pretty cool. That's something I'll take to my deathbed.

MM: I have to be candid with you. I'm very fascinated by the Marc Trestman era. You spent so many years with Lovie Smith with a lot of success and he gets fired. In comes Marc Trestman for your final season as a pro. What was that like from your perspective?

Mannelly: Ah, he was just so different. Sometimes different works. Sometimes it doesn't. We had a very senior locker room of guys that have been there for a long time, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman and that culture was already set of what we had. I think Marc Trestman wanted to change it completely.

When he got there, he pulled me aside and said ‘Hey, I think we should get cell phones out of the locker room.’ I'm like, okay, but I say ‘Coach, the kids now, that's how they communicate.’ This was kind of when Instagram, a lot of stuff was coming up. Yeah, that's how they communicate. He’s like, ‘Well, I want them talking more in the locker room and at the lunchroom, I don't want them on their phones.’

He was trying to make a lot of changes, little things like that. And that just didn’t make sense to a lot of us. His style was different than Lovie. I don't think his standard was as high as Lovie’s. I talked about the practices where he was like, ‘oh it's a great practice.’ It was a horrible practice! And I'm like, wait a minute, you just let our standard slip to where this is acceptable. Now we can have five minimum mistakes in one period of offense.

I didn't like the way he allowed that standard to slip, and it just kept slipping more and more and more. I just kind of saw the writing on the wall when I knew I was retiring that you were hopeful that the next year was going to be good, but it just wasn’t. It was not going in the right direction. Pretty much from halfway through that 2013 to the end of the year.

MM: You've spoken very highly of Dave Toub, former Bears and Kansas City Chiefs special teams coordinator. He’s basically been a coaching candidate for what feels like a decade at this point. Why hasn't he gotten a head coaching job yet?

Mannelly: I don't know. My honest answer might be his personality. He's a little more honest than some people like but I love it. I think it's great. I respect the heck out of him, everybody that played for him respects him, everybody who's been in the special team’s room. There's just the amount of respect, but he's a very honest individual, and some people can't handle that. He’ll just tell you what he feels. But I love it.

I think he would be great. And I think the other thing that has helped him, he's coached for so darn long, that when you’re a head coach, you've got to fill a staff with talented coaches as well. And I think he could do that. I think he's been around long enough, been around a lot of great coaches and can identify great coaches, and he would be able to fill a good staff. That’s just as important.

MM: My last question might be the most important question for some readers. Any plans to release another beer to complement the Long Snapper IPA (from Mundelein's Tighthead Brewing)?

Mannelly: (Laughs) No, no. Well, maybe if my taste buds change. No, that that was just kind of a fun thing to get started. It's been great to see it. You know, it's getting rated well. It's been into Soldier Field, we've got it to Tavern on Rush in the city and Binnie’s.

It started because I just thought that's a cool name for a beer. And Tighthead Brewing has done a great job making a darn good product. I probably drink too many of them, but it's been fun.

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Santa wishes 🎅

Last week, I asked readers what's the one gift they'd bring a Chicago sports team if they were Santa. Here are some of the responses.

• "Competent leadership for Justin Fields and the rest of the Bears who will be here in the future. They deserve better." — Jim

• "A quality big man for the Bulls off the bench and homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs!" — Howard

• "Carlos Correa to the Cubs." — Liz

• "New  Bears ownership!!!  Current ones are stuck in the past and don’t have a clue. I love Virginia but changes are needed." — Arnie

• "The fans deserve the gift, it’s to watch a live game safely and see some good, consistent sports in a major market, without paying an arm and a leg." — T.J.

• "That the Chicago sports team of your choice signs you on for an ungodly amount of money to be their sole provider of all things fun!" — Steve

(Gotta say, I think I like that last one the best. Thanks to everyone who wrote in.)
— K.K.

1. Lester A. Wiltfong Jr. grades Teven Jenkins' first start, which wasn't an uneventful one. Windy City Gridiron

2. The details of Dan Hampton's DUI bust are not good. NY Post

3. The NHL is officially out of the Olympics. Patrick Kane thinks it was probably his last best chance to win a gold medal. Sun-Times

4. Four big questions for the Illini before tonight's Braggin' Rights game against Missouri. Writing Illini

5. Enjoy Billy Corgan and his young daughter sing 'Do You Hear What I Hear?' at Madame Zuzu's. YouTube

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