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Random ruminations on the ever-changing face of Chicago Bears

Football season is here, and it's about time. So far, things look good.

The Cavaliers handed another loss to Benedict Curry and the Tar Heels, this time in front of the wine and cheese crowd in Chapel Hill.

Moreover, this week Virginia faces a Clemson team in disarray. Tiger head coach Tommy Bowden is in the midst of a "quarterback controversy," which in reality-speak means he must choose which bad signal caller will take the snaps. Also, this year Clemson did not return a single starter on the offensive line. That has not happened since 1943, when they all got drafted into the Army.

So keeping that in mind, I'm focusing on bigger things. After all, the NFL is right around the corner, and it couldn't come too soon.

But while I'm looking forward to watching most of the pros, my enthusiasm for the Chicago Bears decreases each year. I've been a Bears fan since the salad days of 1985. I remember the Super Bowl Shuffle and the beatdown the Monsters of the Midway levied upon the New England Patriots.

But those days are far behind us Bears fans. The truth is, the 1999 version of the Bears aren't as intimidating as those of lore. They're actually laughable, not to mention irritatingly inept.

The 1997-98 offseason provided signs of things to come, when lineman Alonzo Spellman blew a few synapses, barricaded himself and his agent within a house, surrendered to the police and was cornered half-naked in the middle of winter outside a "treatment facility."

Everyone thought Spellman was nuts. But maybe he knew something the rest of us didn't.

Truth is, the recent series of events in the Windy City has been as crazy as Spellman's antics. Well, almost as crazy. When the '98 season ended, the Bears booted head coach Dave Wannstedt. Now maybe Wannstedt wasn't the best judge of talent, but the moment he was unemployed, his former boss and current Miami coach Jimmy Johnson pounced on Wannstedt quicker than Gilbert Brown on a honey baked ham. That has to say something about his coaching savvy, if nothing else.

So the Bears started to search for a replacement, and seemed to find one in Dave McGinnis, the defensive coordinator for the young, rising Arizona squad.

Chicago called a press conference to announce the signing, but forgot to tell McGinnis to sign an actual contract. So ended the brief career of Dave McGinnis in Chicago.

But as Bears fans have learned in the '90s, the front office isn't one to stop, much less think, after a blunder.

Eventually Chicago hired Dick Jauron, Jacksonville's defensive coordinator.

The Jags are known for a lot of things: a high-octane offense, an extremely humid locale and uniforms in the unsettling color of teal, to name a few. But solid defense isn't one of them. And the Bears' defense wasn't exactly the most redoubtable of units.Finally, this led to the long-awaited sacking of team president and CEO Michael McCaskey, in place of Ted Phillips. In recent years, McCaskey made a series of personnel blunders, including trading the 11th overall pick for Rick Mirer in 1997, who's been more of a model for different team uniforms than an actual NFL quarterback.

Chicago, now under the "Tony-n-Dick regime," drafted UCLA quarterback Cade McNown. And after a lengthy holdout that is becoming de rigeur for highly touted rookie QBs, McNown stepped in. He was excited and ready to prove himself; he just wasn't very good.McNown obviously needed at least a year as an understudy. So what did the Bears do?

They released former starter Erik Kramer, the best Chicago QB since Jim McMahon. Then last Friday, the string of confounding decisions continued, as Jauron named Shane Matthews as the opening day starter over McNown.

The quarterback carousel helped shove the last scraps of lettuce from the salad days of 1985 down the disposal. Maybe they've written the year off already. Or maybe they were afraid the crew on SportsCenter didn't have enough fodder for its nightly quips. Either way, Chicago looks ready to follow the new cellar-dwelling tradition already put in place by the Cubs and Bulls.

But there might be one bright spot in this. Maybe if the Bears are bad enough, they'll get the No. 1 draft pick, an impact player who can help things turn around.

But then again, knowing the Bears, they'd just trade the pick for Mirer again.

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