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2018 NFL Draft: A beaming Vic Fangio among Bears’ winners and losers

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Thursday night was big for the grizzled defensive coordinator. Not so much for Nick Kwiatkoski.

Chicago Bears

With every selection made in the 2018 NFL Draft, there are always going to be people that benefit most from the decision in organizations. And then of course, those that are getting off on the wrong foot. The NFL is a fickle league with roster turnover that is unprecedented on an annual basis.

The Bears, in case you’ve been living under a rock (it’s okay, sometimes many of us do), selected Roquan Smith with the No. 8 overall pick on Thursday night. The 2017 Butkus Award winner was considered one of the most complete defensive prospects available in this draft and should make an immediate impact for Chicago’s defense. This is a star level player that can help the Bears evolve defensively. Better said, a face of the defense.

Smith’s addition means much more to some people in the Bears’ organization than others: in a good and bad way.

Here are the winners and losers following the Bears’ investment into their inside linebacking corps with Smith.


Winner: Vic Fangio

Smith’s selection should create more of these things we normal people call “smiles” on Fangio’s face.

You know what? Congratulations to Fangio for having the football off-season of his dreams as a coach. While the glory boys focus on the offense with Matt Nagy and Mitchell Trubisky, Fangio has quietly been lurking in the shadows like the stingy defensive guru he is. Count the wins for him since 2018 started. Seriously, has any defensive coordinator in the NFL had a better four-month run than the firing-from-the-hip Fangio? A hole-in-one every month!

  1. Ryan Pace undoubtedly wrote a blank check for Fangio to stay in January to coach a defense he’s already intimately familiar with for another three years.
  2. He continues to get to coach Leonard Floyd.
  3. Smith was an investment in an inside linebacker for the future that Fangio’s accustomed to with what the 49ers once had in Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman.
  4. We learned that he can actually smile, which is probably good for mental health or something.
  5. He continues to get to coach Floyd.

Win after win after win. Invest in some edge pass rushers through the rest of this year’s draft and I think there’s a possibility we start to see a regularly happy Fangio. This is news that I don’t how to process. I didn’t know the grumpy coach was capable of actually showing joy. I guess that’s what happens when your team effectively buys you a metaphorical massage recliner that caters to your football needs. I couldn’t say for sure.

Winner: Leonard Floyd and friendship

Carolina Panthers v Chicago Bears
Fact: this was Floyd’s reaction to the Smith pick.
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

I don’t know where Floyd chose to watch the first round of the draft, but I confidently can assume he didn’t stay calm when he saw his former teammate be drafted by the Bears. There’s a thing us millennials like to call “blowing your phone up” in mass texting our family, friends, and such from time to time. I like to think that the amount of fire, bomb, and power emoji’s that Floyd sent Smith following the pick was too many to count.

In news that may only interest me, the two drafted defensive centerpieces of the Bears were college teammates. These are the friendships we want tested in life. The relationships we strive for. If you thought there was any way I could be happier at what transpired here for Chicago, you’d be wrong. In time, by extension, I may well adopt Smith as another son for this. There’s a measure of shock that I won’t get over.

Look at that these Georgia boys’ smiles! How do you not shed a tear?

Winner: Bears’ history buffs

In time, maybe Smith gets his own billboards on I-294. Ideally not for hair restoration.

You’ve heard the Bears’ linebacker cliches by now. I know you have, they’re unavoidable. This is the underlying storyline that people (like me) unashamedly won’t stop pushing. I’d apologize for it, but Smith more than fits in line with what the Bears have previously done at linebacker in their 97-year history. So, sorry not sorry.

The Bears haven’t always had a great linebacker manning the middle, as they have typically waited eight or so seasons (definitely not by coincidence or anything) between their best. For the first time, Chicago waited about six years with Smith. Wow. Can you say “impatient”?

From Bill George to Brian Urlacher and his hair restoration sponsorships, no one does this position like the Bears. If everything goes swimmingly and as planned, in time Smith will comfortably be mentioned among his predecessors. A fact that I know most of the city of Chicago is already been on board with. You’re all suckers for nostalgia. Can’t get enough of it, in fact.

Hopefully, with the creativity of 2018, hopefully Smith gets better than 1-800 informercial styled sponsorships as the face of the Bears’ defense. He deserves better. If you’re going to see his face while driving around the city, wouldn’t you want him to not be a meme? That sounded worse in my head.

Losers: Nick Kwiatkoski

Cleveland Browns v Chicago Bears
It’s clear the Bears see Kwiatkoski as depth now. That may or may not be a bad thing.
Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

The only man that reasonably could’ve had a bad first round in regards to the Bears was Kwiatkoski. While he never took the inside linebacking slot next to Danny Trevathan by storm, many did think the 2016 fourth rounder would be a starter going into 2018. As soon as Smith came off the board, if Kwiatkoski hung his head in disappointment at the news, I wouldn’t have blamed him.

To be fair, this isn’t a death knell for Kwiatkoski’s Bears’ career or in the NFL. He’s probably better suited as the No. 3 linebacker and gives the team excellent depth should anything happen to Trevathan or Smith moving forward. For the next two years, the Bears don’t have to worry about inside linebacker based off the contracts of Kwiatkoski and Trevathan, respectively. That’s a good thing. Sometimes, guys have to play and understand their roles first. After Trevathan’s contract is up after 2019, the Bears have a young linebacker duo to move forward with once more.

In the mean time, this new reality will probably take some getting used to for Kwiatkoski. Yes, he’s well compensated as an NFL player so ... uh ... wait, yeah he’ll be fine. If anyone wants to buy him a drink though, have a heart.

Loser: Old fashioned pessimism

Cleveland Browns v Chicago Bears
The unity I see right now is heartwarming.
Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

I legitimately sought out anyone that was unhappy with Smith’s addition, and let me tell you, I had to dig. I have never seen a collective hive mind, I mean, media gathering and fan base be as united on one Bears’ pick as with Smith. If we’re being honest, I didn’t know everyone was so nice. No, you’re crying.

For the first time in four years, the Bears didn’t take a project player like Kevin White. They didn’t execute any kind of trade that creates unwarranted shock value like with Mitchell Trubisky. They stayed pat at their slot, took their best player available in Smith, and set a cornerstone for their defense. Just listen to The Ringer’s Robert Mays echo the same sentiments.

This is a strange reality. One that I think many people who cover or follow the Bears weren’t prepared for. A universally beloved draft pick added to a young roster on the rise? Gasp! That’s unheard of. For once, Chicago made a franchise investment that’s difficult to entirely poke holes in. What do I do with my hands? I feel awkward.

If you are knocking this pick of Smith, more power to you. It’s not sunshine and rainbows throughout, I assure you. Know that there’s a strong unity spread through the city otherwise: one that hasn’t been seen around these parts for a long time. And know that it’s beautiful.

Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for The Rock River Times, an editor for Windy City Gridiron and Inside The Pylon, and is a contributor to Pro Football Weekly and The Athletic Chicago. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.