First & Long: Bears Mulling Future Stadium Options, Mack and Quinn Will Miss Sunday’s Game, Packers Beat Cardinals in Thursday Thriller

Other than a rash of COVID-19 cases that have hit the team and the inconsistent play of rookie QB Justin Fields, the biggest news stories of the week have centered on the Bears’ potential purchase of 326 acres of property in Arlington Park, and what they plan to do with the property if the purchase goes through. The only thing we know at this point is that the team has no interest in continuing horse racing at the existing facility. The Bears have reiterated their plans to raze Arlington Park and completely repurpose the land they’ve agreed to purchase.

“We are in the process of conducting our due diligence on the property and are not pursuing any horse racing opportunities on the site,” Scott Hagel, the Bears’ senior vice president of marketing and communications, wrote in an e-mail to the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday night.

Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes previously said he’d welcome combining football and horse racing on the site but also admitted that the Bears were not pursuing that type of dual functionality.

Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips said that finalizing the agreement was the “critical next step in continuing our exploration of the property and its potential.” Churchill Downs, current owners of the property, announced the Bears offer of $197.2 million was agreed to in September and said it anticipated closing the sale in late 2022 or early 2023.

Soldier Field, which is owned by the Chicago Park District, holds 61,500 fans, the smallest capacity in the NFL. The league’s charter franchise hopes to be able to develop the area around the Arlington Park property with shopping, dining, and entertainment. The team would also collect all of the money from parking concessions, and more than likely, they’d invest in a hotel, making the project around the potential stadium site similar to the Cubs 1060 project. As with that endeavor, expect costs to be considerably higher than initial estimates.

Shortly after the sale was announced, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said her administration continues talking with the Bears about staying in the city but also said the team needs “to be more forthcoming about what they want.” It’s pretty obvious that the Bears want to control all of the revenue streams while also increasing the value of the franchise. As of this August, the Bears were estimated to be worth $4.075 billion by Forbes magazine, up 16% from the previous year. If you factor in a wholly-owned stadium plus the amenities and revenues that come with it, the McCaskeys could easily see a $5-6 billion evaluation, if not more. If the new stadium is an indoor/outdoor facility, it could be used year-round for all kinds of events, including as a site for a future Super Bowl.

If the Bears decide to make the move, there is the still matter of building a football stadium on the suburban site. Illinois taxpayers will be paying off the 2003 Soldier Field renovation project until 2032, regardless of a move to Arlington Heights. Ponying up more money for a new facility is going to become a hot-button issue in the months and years to come. It would cost the McCaskeys $84 million to break the Soldier Field lease, and being that the NFL’s first family is only worth about $1.3 billion, private funding of a new stadium is out of the question.

So-Fi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, the two-year-old home of the Rams, cost more than $5 billion to construct. With that in mind, could the purchase of the suburban site help pave the way for the NFL’s first family to sell the team? It’s at least worth asking when you consider matriarch Virginia McCaskey will turn 99 on January 5, could be nearing 101 when the sale is finally completed, and her heirs are split on whether to keep the franchise in the family or sell it to the highest bidder. Though Mrs. McCaskey has said repeatedly she has no intention of giving up the team, you’d think the decision is probably not final considering all factors.

Would Chicago fight to keep the Bears? Does the city have the necessary means to keep the team? Will Mrs. McCaskey or her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren be making the decision to stay downtown or leave for the suburbs? It will be a drawn-out process that lasts several years.

Bears News & Notes

There’s a Flag… On the Play

Aaron Rodgers = instant meme.

NFL News & Notes

Jets’ backup QB Mike White will sub for injured starter Zach Wilson this week, and couldn’t be more excited. Newly acquired signal-caller Joe Flacco probably won’t be ready to run the offense until New York’s following game.

Vikings WR Justin Jefferson set a rookie record for receiving yards last season, and now he’s hoping Bengals wideout Ja’Marr Chase will eclipse his record.

It’s only Week 8 of the 2021 NFL season, and the Saints are already on their fifth placekicker.

The Raiders have reached a settlement agreement with disposed head coach Jon Gruden. Terms were not disclosed.

Tom Brady revealed the favorite moment of his NFL career, and the answer might surprise you.

ESPN’s Sean McDonough remains underappreciated as a thinking fan’s play-by-play man.

Northern Exposure

With the Packers’ 24-21 win on an incredible game-ending endzone pick over the undefeated Cardinals, the 1972 Dolphins get to keep their streak intact as the NFL’s last perfect team in the Super Bowl era.

The Vikings offensive line is a weekly work in progress, and they’ve really protected QB Kirk Cousins well in their past three games.

The Lions are the NFL’s only winless team, but their improving play has fans excited or the future.

Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust

  1. Over the past 2 years, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has made nearly $128 million.
  2. The Cardinals, Packers, Buccaneers, Rams, and Cowboys have the 5 best records in the NFL. That means the NFC is the first conference to have the five teams with the outright best records in the NFL through Week 7 since the 1970 Merger.
  3. In 2004, Chad Hutchinson led the Bears with four TD passes for the entire season. Chicago had nine as a team that year.

Seeing Red (Zone)

It’s tough to watch this voodoo magic the Packers have trademarked.

From the Podium

  • “The ability to run the ball statistically has almost zero to do with the effectiveness of play-action pass. Teams that don’t run the ball still are effective in play-action. We’ve got to be better in almost every single aspect of the passing game. I mean, our details in pass protection, our details in route running, our details in the decision-making, and the throwing at quarterback and then putting it all together.” – Lazor
  • “At the end of the day, we’ve had our meetings, we’re gonna have our walk-through just like what we always did and we’re gonna have our practice just like what we always do. With regards to getting the meat and potatoes done, that hasn’t changed. Everything to me is normal.” – Tabor
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