PHOENIX—It was a year ago tomorrow that the Bears landed in Miami for Super Bowl XLI.
My how things change in the course of a year,
The Bears stumbled to a 7-9 finish, made more palatable by meaningless season-ending victories over Green Bay and New Orleans. The club is in the process of preparing for the draft and free agency, and organizational meetings that will shape the 2008 season will begin shortly after the Super Bowl. The month off from the end of the season ought to take some of the emotion out of the critical decisions that need to be made.
They say they are close to returning to the stage of the scene here where the Giants and unbeaten New England Patriots will battle next Sunday in Super Bowl XLII. After watching New York win road playoff games at Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLII, maybe the Bears are right. The two teams met at Soldier Field in November, a game the Bears led 16-7 with seven minutes to play. That’s when Eli Manning took over, directing touchdown drives of 75 and 77 yards for a come-from-behind victory. The Giants have not lost a game away from the dump they call home in East Rutherford, N.J., since the season opener at Dallas. Ten road dates equaled 10 road victories.
So, Inside the Bears will take on a Super Bowl flavor this week. We’ll take a look at the Big Game—that’s what they call it in Las Vegas where the NFL says use of the name Super Bowl is a no-no—and we’ll check in with any Bears developments as they occur. We'll look for some sights, sounds and anecdotes that don't get play elsewhere and report them.
There are former Bears in the mix here. Giants cornerback R.W. McQuarters is a familiar face. New York’s offensive line coach Pat Flaherty coached tight ends on Dick Jauron’s staff. He’s the brother-in-law of current Bears’ O-line coach Harry Hiestand. On New England’s side, linebacker Rosevelt Colvin ought to be around. He’s out with a broken bone in his right foot.
Fullback Jim Finn, a Mr. Irrelevant draft choice by the Bears in 1999, is on the Giants' injured reserve list. Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears coached the Bears wide receivers from 1993-98. Both teams have a cornerback on their practice squad that spent time with the Bears—Tim Mixon for New England and Andrew Shanle for the Giants.
We’ll look for some familiar faces and see what those in the know have to say about how close the Bears are to being in realistic contention for a Super Bowl berth.