Let’s talk about the weather. I know, I know … could there be anything more pedestrian? But bear with me. Overall, it’s been a great fall so far here in Chicago. Unseasonably warm for a while, cooling down lately yet still plenty of sunshine and warmth to get outside and watch the Bears lose. (Ooh, sorry. That just came out.)
But, with each cool breeze or re-ignition of the furnace on a chilly morning, we know that winter’s true cold is on its way. We just don’t know exactly when or how badly. And that’s my general impression of Chicago sports right now. Things are OK for the most part, but there’s a chilling uncertainty in the air that’s making me uneasy.
So, with that morale-boosting assessment in mind, let’s dig into another edition of Chicago head coach/manager Power Rankings. (This is the fourth installment of our rankings. To read the previous one, click here.)
1. Joel Quenneville
Previous position in power rankings: 2
Why he’s here: Why not? We’re all mad at Lovie (see below), the Bulls are still in their preseason, and the Cubs and White Sox aren’t playing (obviously). Someone has to take the reins; so we’re handing them over to Coach Q. Is there another head coach/manager in town that you trust more? Didn’t think so.
Indeed, the beginning of the Blackhawks season has been a little uncertain. (There’s that word again.) And it was a little odd to see Corey Crawford take the net over Marty Turco quite as much as he did. But, like we said, we trust Quenneville, and the offense really showed some signs of life in the team’s wins over the Columbus Blue Jackets, Buffalo Sabres and particularly in the Hossa/Sharpy-fueled overtime win over the St. Louis Blues.
Coach Q seems intent on shuffling the line changes on needed to, among other things, account for Patrick Kane’s early season injury/illness woes as well as to more effectively manage Duncan Keith’s minutes. So far, so good … for the most part.
Where he’s headed: Confidence remains fairly high. Quenneville will likely be duking it out for the top spot with Lovie for the next few months.
2. Lovie Smith
Previous position in power rankings: 1
Why he’s here: The natives are restless — as are Bears fans nationwide. We’ve lost faith in Mike Martz’s mega-step offense and overreliance on the passing game. Someone needs to step up and help the team realign its approach to scoring points. If only there was someone above Mike Martz. A supervisor just above Offensive Coordinator that could put his foot down and give the team a fighting chance now that every other team in the NFL knows how to run down and sack Jay Cutler.
Oh, wait, there is. There’s Lovie. And we’d suggest that he transfer some of the surliness he’s directed at the media this season to his coaching staff. Sure he knows there’s a problem with the O-Line and the running game:
Protection-wise, it’s still a problem. It's something we have to fix. Never really got the running game established, didn't get a whole lot done.
…but, as usual, he’s given us now clear indication of how he’ll make those repairs. In short, this team’s record (4-2) doesn’t match its mojo (poor).
Where he’s headed: Further down if the Bears can’t right the ship against the Washington Redskins this coming weekend. Fans have been waiting all season to feel certain that this team really is as good as that aforementioned record. We’re still waiting.
3. Tom Thibodeau
Previous position in power rankings: 4
Why he’s here: He’s battling. The Bulls have had an up and down preseason thus far and, unfortunately for Coach T, his number one priority — defense — remains one of the team’s biggest uncertainties.
Granted, we may see improvements in the Bulls’ defense now that Taj Gibson, a highly underrated defensive player, is able to (we hope) get and stay on the court more regularly. But Thibodeau is a new coach in the big city so, while we welcome him, we also withhold any effusive praise until a clearer picture of his leadership emerges.
Where he’s headed: Maybe nowhere, but possibly upward if the Bulls get off to a hot start. Thibodeau’s hard slog up our power rankings — past championship winner Quenneville and perpetual focus Smith — will in large part depend on the Bulls’ ability to improve defensively while taking that next big step forward offensively with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah leading the way.
4. Mike Quade
Previous position in power rankings: 3
Why he’s here: Because he’s news. Big news. Because he won a job that no one would have given him an outside shot at just a few, short months ago. Because he has the experience, mindset, focus and familiarity with the 21st century Chicago Cubs that make him the right choice for the job.
Does that mean Ryne Sandberg (or Joe Girardi, if his hiring was ever truly feasible) would have been a bad choice? Not at all. He would've made for a great story, and he might still. But for a team looking to build a young core and promote from within properly, Quade fits the bill. He knows this team and its players. He's fully aware of what to expect on the field, in the clubhouse — and in the press room — at Wrigley Field. Welcome (back) aboard, Mike.
Where he’s headed: Odds are, nowhere. Cubs fans have just endured the tenures of two big-name, celebrity (in the baseball sense) managers. So, make no mistake, Quade is going to have to earn his keep with Cubs fans and his place on our power rankings. For now, we're relieved that the managerial search is over and looking forward to getting on with the off-season.
5. Ozzie Guillen
Previous position in power rankings: 5
Why he’s here: We’re not leaving Ozzie in the bottom spot out of spite or punishment. It’s mostly because, well, things have just gone so quiet on the South Side. There were rumblings toward the end of the 2010 season that Ozzie could be on his way out, headed perhaps to the Florida Marlins after repeated run-ins with general manager Kenny Williams.
Although that remains a possibility (the Marlins have yet to fill their managerial opening), it feels doubtful somehow. Joe Cowley, Sox beat reporter for the Sun Times, reported on his blog late last month that Guillen and Williams apparently had a sit down and healed their reported rift to the extent possible. When asked about their relationship, Ozzie said:
We have work to do. Not on the field. Not about our work ethic is very good. What we do, what we get paid to do is very good. We're going to get better about stuff happening in the past. Communication is going to be better.
If you say so, Ozzie. Honestly, after reading Cowley’s post, it appears Ozzie’s chief concern isn’t so much the White Sox but a mysterious business investment in Chicago that he’s made and intends to pursue.
Who knows, maybe Guillen won’t manage anywhere after 2011. Perhaps he’s here in town to stay no matter what happens. He joked about running for mayor. It could happen; probably not in the upcoming election but somewhere down the line.
Where he’s headed: He’ll likely be simmering in the lower reaches of our power rankings for some months to come. We’re going to not-so-bravely predict that Ozzie will be back with the Sox next season to finish out his contract. The Sox owe him that bit of dignity, and Kenny Williams probably doesn’t want to get mixed up in the chaotic game of musical chairs going on right now amongst major league teams and their managerial jobs anyway.