McClellin, who agreed to a three-year contract with the New England Patriots on Monday, is not a terrible player.
He was just a bad choice in the first round.
Had McClellin been a third- or fourth-round pick, Chicago would probably remember his four years differently.
Remember, McClellin’s play drastically improved the past two years when the Bears moved him from defensive end to linebacker.
While completely overmatched when used in a 4-3 pass-rusher role -- except for a miraculous, three-sack performance at Green Bay in 2013 -- McClellin recently enjoyed a modest degree of success at outside linebacker, then inside, recording a combined 180 tackles in 2014-15.
None of that mattered.
Bears fans never forgave the organization for bypassing the likes of Chandler Jones in favor of McClellin at No. 19 in 2012. He became a punch line.
At the time, the Chicago faithful craved a fierce pass-rusher to compliment Julius Peppers. Unfortunately, McClellin never came close to becoming that guy. Part of that, however, is due to the Bears’ complete misevaluation of McClellin coming out of Boise State. Maybe the narrative would be different had McClellin entered the NFL as a reserve linebacker/special-teamer, who eventually worked his way into the starting lineup in year two or three.
As a first-round pick, though, McClellin had to play immediately, which produced disappointing results.
Still, McClellin’s combined 6.5 sacks over his first two NFL seasons would be salvageable had the Bears taken him on Day 2 or early Day 3 of the draft.
For a top pick, however, expectations are justifiably much higher. Once McClellin failed to achieve impactful results at defensive end, the city basically wrote him off -- lumping him in with the long list of Bears’ draft busts since the early 2000s.
McClellin responded well to defensive coordinator Vic Fangio last year. He should also receive solid coaching in New England. Although McClellin does not make many game-changing plays (interceptions, sacks, tackles for loss), he is a fairly active tackler with above average speed and athleticism. Is he an All-Pro? No. But the guy can play a little.
Without the crushing weight of being a former first-round pick to worry about, McClellin should relax in New England. It would not be a huge surprise if McClellin carves out a niche on the Patriots' defense. He certainly is athletic enough to do so.