Shea McClellin Peeling Off the “Bust” Label


Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

We all know the story. Shea McClellin was drafted 19th in the first round by then-GM Phil Emery. It was kind of a head scratcher for most NFL scouts had Shea pegged for late first or early second round. It wasn’t unlike Emery to reach, which we saw later in Kyle Long.  Next the Bears coaching staff did McClellin no favors by moving him from LB to DE. They wanted to utilize his speed as an edge rusher, but the end result? A disaster for both Shea and the team.

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Then last season, he was moved to RLB under the Mel Tucker regime. What did we see? A player struggling, appearing lost and to got so bad most fans and even Bears media stitched “Bust” on the back of Shea’s jersey. He was done, a wasted draft pick by Emery and certainly no NFL player. When Vic Fangio took over as DC, most pundits figured give Shea a week or two and he’d either be cut or traded and the Bears could wash the memories away.

Fangio fooled everyone and said McClellin would move to ILB. Most fans groaned, Shea probably did too, for this would be his third position change. After that announcement, it was assumed Shea would be relegated to second string and a ST player, but no. Instead, Fangio said McClellin starts and will be the defense’s QB. The media and fans were incredulous, but Fangio and Fox stated they felt McClellin was a good fit at ILB. The result? They were right.

Let’s be fair, Shea probably will not be an All Pro or make the Pro Bowl, but we are witnessing the development of a quality player. He displays leadership and brings a sense of focus to the defense. McClellin will not make all the splash plays like Urlacher did, that is not Shea. He is a quiet unassuming player that is more blue collar then headline grabber.

What brought this reality home was when Shea got injured recently. Again, most thought it would be no big deal, nothing missed. However, while the defense played well there was a sense something was missing. For the first time, fans were starting to say, Mclellin was missed out there. That was driven home last weekend against the Rams. Shea’s presence seemed to calm the defense, and his strip fumble and recovery only solidified how much the defense needs him.

Shea has a ways to go, even he has admitted still learning the position. What we are witnessing again, is when good coaches can see where to maximize someone’s talent you will get better than average results. Did Shea deserve to be a number one pick? Probably not. Does he deserve to be labelled a bust? Not any more. His consistent play is slowly peeling that label off.