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Good morning, frents!
Happy paczki day! You might have to share a few with your sled dogs, but here's hoping you're able to get to your favorite bakery for a few today.
A quick reminder I'll be running the first members-only mailbag on Friday morning. Reply to this email with any sports, food, beer or Chicago questions and I'll queue it up for the column.
Bulls 120, Pacers 112 (OT)
Hawks 3, Wings 2 (OT)
N’Western at Illinois (8, BTN)
Next man up: Sean Desai
Sean Desai was named the Bears' next defensive coordinator a few weeks ago, but it wasn't until Monday that he got his first official Zoom call with the media.
"Chicago's a great place to play defense," said Desai, who mostly recently served as the team's safeties coach.
I'd also submit that it's a great place to coach defense as the only person who receives more institutional trust than the Bears defensive coordinator is named Tom Skilling.
Even a disappointing DC like Mel Tucker doesn't earn as much historical scorn as, say, an old Bears OC like John Shoop or Mike Martz.
So the benefit of the doubt will go to Desai, even if he's an internal hire made by a GM and coach whose approval rating is trending only slightly higher than the person in charge of the city's plows.
Here's the thing, though: Desai has more than earned our confidence, both through his coaching pedigree and the amazing if atypical resume he brings to the job.
Here are a few takeaways from Desai's availability, which you can watch on YouTube:
- Vic Fangio is his guy. Desai is the longest-tenured coach at Halas Hall, first coming aboard under Marc Trestman and Mel Tucker in 2013 as a quality control coach. But his career blossomed under Fangio's tutelage from 2015-2018 and the Bears are only too happy to sell the promise of a return to 2018's dominance. Getting there will require Desai doing a better job of running Fangio's 3-4 and mixing/disguising coverages than Chuck Pagano did the last two seasons. Desai will also have the challenge of doing Fangio's thing but also doing enough of his own thing to try and get back out in front of the NFL's best offenses. It isn't going to be easy.
- Desai thinks only a "tune-up" is necessary. The Bears have enough name players and enough money committed to the defensive side of the ball that I'm not sure they have any other choice to adopt this line. But it does make several assumptions, including that the older players will stay healthy and productive while the younger players like Roquan Smith and Jaylon Johnson cover any dropoff. On the plus side, the return of Eddie Goldman from a 2020 opt-out will be a nice pseudo-free agent add.
- Desai's story is a great one: The 37-year-old is blazing trails as the first coach of Indian descent to be hired as an NFL coordinator. He didn't play football in college at Boston University (which doesn't have a program) or the pros, but holds a master's degree from Columbia, a Ph.D. from Temple and has taught classes at Lake Forest University's Graduate School of Management. Kevin Fishbain's 2018 profile on Desai is worth your time, as is Desai's op-ed in The Athletic on racial injustice last summer and his appearance on the Hoge and Jahns podcast.
There's something to be said for an organization that builds around people of high intellect and character and it seems like the Bears got both in giving Desai more responsibility and power.
Let's hope his incredible story continues adding great chapters.
Which Bears defensive coordinator owns the longest tenure in the post-Ditka era?
Bulls finally beat the Pacers
The Bulls hadn't defeated Indiana since November 2018 or won in Indianapolis since early 2016. But that changed as Zach LaVine scored 12 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter and the team's defense clamped down in overtime for a big road win.
- LaVine's rainbow three near the end of the fourth was as perfect a shot as you'll see.
- Good news: Wendell Carter returned to the lineup after missing 11 games and turned in 11 points and nine rebounds.
- The Bulls are 11-15 and a half-game behind Toronto for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Hawks win one they 'stole'
- The Red Wings outplayed and outshot the Hawks in a game that Jeremy Colliton labeled as 'not one we're gonna frame.' But two goals from Dominik Kubalik — including the OT winner — gave the Hawks a 3-2 victory to open the two-game series in Detroit.
- It was the Hawks' sixth victory in their last eight games and moved them into a playoff spot for the first time all year.
- Wondering about the last time the Bulls and Hawks both won in OT on the same day? NBC Chicago's James Neveau says it was December 8, 2017 when the Bulls beat the Hornets and the Hawks beats the Sabres.
1. Not sure if Bart Scott is doing someone in the Eagles front office a solid, but he said out loud that Carson Wentz makes the Bears a Super Bowl contender. NBC Sports Chicago
2. Duncan Keith tells Emily Kaplan his secrets to playing big minutes at age 37. Also, typing that Duncan Keith is 37 just doesn't look right. ESPN
3. Collin Delia is dealing with being the third wheel of the Hawks' goalkeeping situation, Mark Lazerus writes. The Athletic
4. Evan Altman on why the player payroll cuts spell an ominous future for Major League Baseball. Cubs Insider
5. How Kobe almost got Derrick Rose a championship. Lakers Daily
Trivia answer: Greg Blache, who was the DC for all five years of Dick Jauron's stay here.