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Kickin’ It with Kiz: Life lesson college football coaches teach players? Always look out for No. 1.

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Kickin’ It with Kiz: Life lesson college football coaches teach players? Always look out for No. 1.

College football coaches just dump kids and their programs like snake-oil salesmen running out of town.

Fred, independent thinker

Kiz: There will be no tears shed here for Oklahoma losing coach Lincoln Riley to USC or Brian Kelly abandoning Notre Dame for Louisiana State. Can’t blame them for chasing the dream and the green. Ain’t that America? But maybe we should dispense with the balderdash about football coaches being employed to teach life lessons to players, unless the lesson is: Always look out for No. 1. In the case of Kelly, his interest in molding the minds of young men is as phony as the hilariously bad southern accent he adopted when introducing himself to LSU fans at a basketball game in Baton Rouge.

Any rational person marked this game in Kanas City as a loss for the Broncos as soon as the NFL schedule was released. I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but it’s fanciful to think Denver’s path to the playoffs goes through K.C. Now, when the Chiefs come to Denver at the end of the season … maybe.

Mr. U, tough cowboy

Kiz: While the Broncos will be 9.5-point underdogs on “Sunday Night Football,” the best reason to believe they have a shot to beat Kansas City? Quarterback Patrick Mahomes can still wing it, but he has lost his Midas touch. K.C. has scored more than 20 points only once in its last five games. Fearless prediction: Although the losing streak will reach 12, the Broncos will end their misery against the Chiefs on the final weekend on the regular season, and that victory just might be enough to earn Denver a playoff berth.

This is why Michael Porter Jr fell to the Nuggets in the NBA draft. There were so many warning signs, and bad backs don’t go away.

Brad, easy rider

Kiz: As the 24-year-old forward recovers from the third surgery on his back, we wish him well. But if MPJ is ever again the player that got Nuggets Nation dreaming about finally bringing the Larry O’Brien Trophy home to this dusty old cowtown, it will be a minor medical miracle.

Major League Baseball wants us to think it cares about the competitiveness and quality of the sport, then puts Rockies owner Dick Monfort as one of the lead negotiators for the owners in their labor dispute with players. Makes sense to me!

Andrew, wee bit sarcastic

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Where did D’Angelo Russell learn to draw fouls? ‘Lou Will University’

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Where did D’Angelo Russell learn to draw fouls? ‘Lou Will University’

The Timberwolves’ D’Angelo Russell rarely attacks the rim. He takes fewer than four shots a game from inside 10 feet.

Yet somehow the guard averages 3.5 free-throws a game — the same number as Anthony Edwards, who penetrates into the paint on a regular basis. While Edwards draws his fouls via shear brute force, Russell does so with craft.

The 25-year-old — who was averaging eight free-throws a game over Minnesota’s last two contests entering Tuesday’s game in Portland — is adept at sensing when something as simple as a defender’s hands are in the wrong place, and is able to move his arms to draw contact and a whistle.

The “rip through” move in which the offensive player swings his arms through the defender’s hands was declared to not be a shooting foul in recent years, leading fewer players to use the move. Yet Russell still goes to it whenever Minnesota is in the bonus, giving him two easy free-throws whenever it’s called.

“He’s such a smart basketball player, he knows what’s going on at every little moment. He’s always thinking the game, knows all of the situations,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “He’s pretty crafty with the ball in traffic. He does have a knack for drawing fouls.”

Minnesota’s rotational choices of late have had Russell off the floor at the end of the first and third quarters, even when the Wolves are in the bonus. But, Finch noted, when the opportunity to get to the line presents itself, Russell seizes it.

When Russell was a young player in the league, playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, he said he attended “Lou Will University.” He watched veteran teammate Lou Williams draw contact and calls through a variety of subtle methods. Russell took note.

“I learned all of that from him. Guarding him in practice, watching him do it from the bench, fool the refs every night,” Russell said. “I just felt like that I could add it to my game.”

BEVERLEY OUT AGAIN

Patrick Beverley missed his second straight game with a sprained ankle that Finch described as not “too, too severe,” though the coach added injuries like that often lead to more than one missed contest.

TOWNS ON BONDS

Count Karl-Anthony Towns as a member of the camp that was disgruntled by Barry Bonds’ omission from the Baseball Hall of Fame. Towns stumped for Bonds’ inclusion in the hall earlier in the day Tuesday, tweeting “This man should be in the HOF @BarryBonds. Ya’ll trippin if you think otherwise.”

When news circulated that Bonds did not receive the call, Towns quote-tweeted the news with a facepalm emoji.

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The chauffeur — George McCaskey — was sent to O’Hare for ‘Canandaigua.’ A day later, the Chicago Bears GM search ended with the hiring of Ryan Poles.

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The chauffeur — George McCaskey — was sent to O’Hare for ‘Canandaigua.’ A day later, the Chicago Bears GM search ended with the hiring of Ryan Poles.

The video surfaced a little before 11 p.m. Monday. Undercover, of course. And shared on social media by Eric Bohn, whose Twitter bio identifies him as “your trusted resource for Chicago’s Northside and the North Shore residential real estate market.”

In this case, he was moonlighting as an impromptu P.I. — with his cellphone ready.

This, after all, is what we do in 2022. See, share, then open the floor to reaction.

Bohn’s covert video documentation showed what certainly appeared to be Chicago Bears Chairman George McCaskey strolling through O’Hare International Airport with a man who certainly appeared to be Kansas City Chiefs executive director of player personnel Ryan Poles, a finalist for the Bears general manager job.

Finally! In the third week of the Bears’ hunt for a new GM and head coach, we had eyes on the process, evidence of McCaskey with boots on the ground, meeting Poles at the airport and leading this all-important search party into a new in-person stage.

From there, it turns out, everything escalated rather quickly. After Poles’ second interview with the team Tuesday — this time at Halas Hall in Lake Forest — he agreed to become the Bears general manager. The team announced the hiring Tuesday evening.

At 36, he will jump into a front-office position that, under the Bears structure, offers great latitude and freedom to carry out his vision. He will be responsible for jump-starting a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game since the 2010 season and finished 6-11 in 2021.

Poles’ first order of business is hiring a coach. He’ll do so, presumably, with a focus on how the new leader can implement a plan to lift quarterback Justin Fields to new heights.

Many around the league see the Bears’ turnaround efforts as a heavy lift. But in Poles, they have united with a leader who understands the climb and has seen what high-level NFL success looks like.

The Chiefs have gone to the playoffs in eight of the last nine seasons. This Sunday, they will play in the AFC championship game for the fourth consecutive January and are favored to reach the Super Bowl for the third consecutive season.

The arrival

Back to that airport encounter for a moment. By Tuesday morning, Bohn’s video of Poles and McCaskey heading out of O’Hare had more than 700 likes and close to 300 retweets. Many of the replies went as you’d expect.

There was predictable sarcasm. From @puttinonfoil: “Wow. George running an Uber now.”

There were jump-to-conclusions responses. From @Eric11Lackey: “Personally, I love this. Ryan Poles is our next GM as long as he accepts. George is adding that extra personal touch, him picking him up saying ‘you’re my guy, When you’re my guy, you’re family.’ This is a huge sign of respect to the candidate.”

And then, naturally, there were next-level social media sleuths who froze the video, zooming in and seeking clues to figure out something. About anything.

Wait … was that, in McCaskey’s right hand, a chauffeur sign that reads “Canandaigua”? Wasn’t Poles a football star once upon a time at Canandaigua Academy in the New York town of his birth? What a clever and clandestine way to welcome a prospective hire to Chicago! (Except McCaskey, in a pair of jeans and gym shoes, was also wearing a Bears mask and a Bears jacket. So much for a stealth operation.)

Still, McCaskey and the Bears did what they needed to do. After a lengthy round of virtual interviews with at least 14 other GM prospects, they zeroed in on a candidate they felt strongly about. And with the Minnesota Vikings also vying for Poles, the Bears left nothing to chance.

Fifteen days after firing Ryan Pace from the GM role, they tabbed Ryan Poles to take over.

A year ago, Poles was in the running for the same position with the Carolina Panthers. That process invigorated him, helping him crystallize his vision and articulate principles for how championship football teams should be built. During an interview last winter with the ABC affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., Poles expressed his appreciation for that experience.

“That whole process might have been one of the bigger events in my life,” he said. “And especially as a personnel man. Once you finally put out your philosophy on how you want to run your front office, how you want to build a team, what type of coaching you like, the type of players that you look for, you put that on paper. And you spend weeks and weeks and weeks doing that.

“And when you present it in a good way to (team) ownership and another head coach, you gain confidence in yourself on how you want to do things. But you also get a different perspective on your own team and how you want to move forward in your own career.”

Making progress

When Tuesday morning began, it seemed as if the Bears were simply taking the next step in a long search.

Moving past the virtual phase of the interviewing process, Poles became the first known candidate for either of the open jobs to meet with the team at its headquarters in Lake Forest. According to league sources and multiple national reports, the Bears also were working to line up second interviews with GM candidates Eliot Wolf and Monti Ossenfort while trying to schedule in-person meetings with potential coaches Dan Quinn, Matt Eberflus and Jim Caldwell.

Poles’ Tuesday interview, however, ended with contract negotiations.

Poles was also scheduled to meet with the Vikings this week for a second time. That’s something McCaskey and the search committee remained aware of. In New York, meanwhile, the Giants coaching search has heated up quickly after they hired Joe Schoen as their new GM on Friday. (Schoen spoke with the Bears about their GM opening Jan. 16.)

Schoen has close ties to one head coaching candidate many Bears fans have been pining for most: Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who appears to be emerging as a top target for the Giants.

It’s entirely possible Daboll will follow Schoen to the Giants. And while that hardly would register as a knockout punch for the Bears, Daboll landing a new gig anywhere outside Chicago will leave a chunk of the fan base feeling jilted.

At the same time

This is all simply part of the deal, the way searches often evolve and change. And on Tuesday, the Bears made good on one of McCaskey’s biggest vows. As he emphasized Jan. 10: “We prefer to hire the GM first.”

That strategy always made sense. Yet for more than two weeks, the Bears pushed through the first phase of virtual interviews for both jobs simultaneously, meeting with at least 10 coaching candidates and at least 13 GM prospects.

Bill Polian, who is assisting with the searches, presumably came in with a master plan on how to help the Bears smoothly handle the two hunts.

“With Bill’s guidance,” McCaskey noted, “we’re going to be able to find a partnership of GM and coach that will work.”

Still, some around the league have emphasized that if the Bears were promising that their next GM would have complete oversight of the football operation, that now means allowing Poles to conduct his own coaching search via his own methods with his own list of candidates.

That’s where the push to schedule second interviews with coaching candidates before hiring a GM has caused a bit of head scratching. At the very least, it’s something McCaskey and Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips will have to explain.

And when Poles has his opportunity to express his vision publicly and offer an update on the next steps of the coaching search, more light will be shed on the direction that will lead the Bears to their next GM-coach union.

‘Down the road’

For the last 13 years, Poles has climbed through the Chiefs organization, starting as a player personnel assistant and working through a series of college scouting roles on his way to executive director of player personnel. Poles has worked under three general managers: Scott Pioli, John Dorsey and Brett Veach. At each step, he has filed away experiences that can help him in his effort to build a championship contending team with the Bears.

As Poles became more established in the front office in Kansas City, he leaned on valuable advice he was given to think through every major the decision the Chiefs faced as if it was his own, writing down notes on what he would have done, whether that matched the team’s actions or not.

“(That way) you’re getting repetition as a lead man in the front office,” Poles told WHAM-13 in New York last year. “That experience has been great. It has given me a ton of confidence.”

Veach, Poles noted, also taught him a lot about staying aggressive and understanding the value of anticipation.

“It’s looking down the road and talking about the things that could happen,” he said. “What’s our Plan A, B, C and D and moving accordingly. It’s just thinking ahead and anticipating moves that are on the horizon. … And there are pros and cons of being aggressive in the front office. But it’s all about timing and where your roster is and what you’re going for.”

For the Bears, the timing felt right Tuesday to entrust Poles with massive responsibilities. It’s now the new GM’s duty to roll from here.

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New lawsuits challenge federal agencies over land exchange with PolyMet mining company

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New lawsuits challenge federal agencies over land exchange with PolyMet mining company

Minnesota environmental groups and a Native American band filed lawsuits challenging federal agencies over their approval of a land exchange with PolyMet.

In 2018, the company exchanged 6,900 acres of its land for 6,500 acres of U.S. Forest Service land where it plans to build its open-pit copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota.

In a complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Minnesota, a coalition led by the Center for Biological Diversity argued the Forest Service relied on a flawed 2016 biological opinion by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that said the land exchange would not harm the Canada lynx, which is considered a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

The Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S Army Corps of engineers were named in the complaint.

A similar coalition of groups first filed the lawsuit in 2017, but a federal judge in 2019 denied the lawsuit without prejudice, leaving the door open for the lawsuit to be refiled.

Marc Fink, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, told the Forum News Service that a provision under the Endangered Species Act requires agencies restart consultation in the face of new information.

He pointed to the plight of another threatened species, the northern long-eared bat, which has since been devastated by the white nose syndrome. The Forum News Service in 2019 reported a cave in Tower’s Soudan Underground Mine saw a 90% drop in population just six years after the disease was first found in the cave.

“By the time the biological opinion was prepared, the white nose syndrome had not made its way to Minnesota yet,” Fink said. “Numbers have really plummeted since then.”

The Center for Biological Diversity was joined in the lawsuit by Save Lake Superior Association, Save our Sky Blue Waters, Friends of the Cloquet Valley State Forest and Duluth for Clean Water.

Separately, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa on Monday filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Minnesota against the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture. The band said potential pollution from the project would impair its treaty “right to hunt, fish, and gather throughout” in the area it ceded to the federal government in 1854.

The band said that when the U.S. acquired the land in 1935, it was under the Weeks Act, which was meant to product the headwaters of the St. Louis River.

“The Weeks Act only authorizes the Forest Service to exchange the Federal Land if the land to be acquired is ‘chiefly valuable’ for the purpose of ‘regulation of the flow of navigable streams or for the production of timber,’” the band wrote.

The band asked the court to declare the land exchanged violated federal law and to “vacate and set aside the Forest Service’s approvals of the Land Exchange and the Land Exchange itself, including related regulatory and real estate transactions associated therewith.”

Bruce Richardson, a spokesperson for PolyMet, said the company was reviewing the complaints and intended to participated in the lawsuits.

PolyMet is planning an open-pit mine, tailings basin and processing facility near Hoyt Lakes and Babbitt. The mine would be the first of its kind in Minnesota, but a number of its permits continue to face legal challenges.

Opponents fear its location in the Lake Superior watershed could lead to widespread pollution from acid runoff.

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