The folks who enjoy questioning every move made by the Chicago Bears’ front office use this as a mantra, and they say it so often that they actually believe they’ve made their point by talking about Kyle Orton, Cedric Benson, and everyone else in David Haugh’s article ad nauseum. (Disclaimer: I think the Bears’ front office is FAR from perfect, but listing the release of Cedric Benson as evidence of this is simply asinine, for reasons all true and informed NFL fans understand.)
The simple fact of the matter is that this happens to EVERY ballclub. In fact, the entire subject is entirely counter-intuitive, as sometimes the very best organizations let the very best talent walk away. Why? Because they already have such talent pools and are so stocked at certain positions that they can’t accommodate more good players. I simply have to point at our beloved Robbie Gould as evidence of this. The guy has been As Good As Gold for the Bears, and the Patriots once cut him! Gasp! How could they DO such a thing? Well, for one, they had this guy named Adam Vinatieri kicking for them at the time. Do you think Patriot fans sit around and question Belichik for cutting one of the best kickers in the game?
Furthermore, with the nature of Free Agency nowadays, and the fickleness of the draft, it has become the norm for good players to go to other organizations than those which drafted them.
A quick look at the statistical leaders of this season reveals that the Bears are far from the only NFL organization that has let players go, only to see them thrive in different surroundings.
QB: Matt Schaub is second in the NFL in passing yards for the Houston Texans, after being drafted by the Atlanta Falcons. Kurt Warner – NFC champion QB last season – was let go by both the Rams and the Giants. Drew Brees is having MVP-caliber seasons for the Saints after being drafted by the Chargers.
RB: Thomas Jones has 481 yards rushing, at a 5.0 average clip, for the New York Jets after having spent time with the Cardinals, Buccaneers, and Bears. Clinton Portis seems to be doing very well in Washington after being drafted by Denver. How about Michael Turner thriving in Atlanta after being drafted by the Chargers?
WR: Exhibit #1, Randy Moss. Hmmm….has he ever played for any team but the Patriots? Torry Holt, formerly of the Rams, has over 400 yards receiving for the Jaguars. Nate Burleson has 398 receiving yards for Seattle, after being drafted by the Vikings.
Defense: London Fletcher is leading the NFL in tackles for the Redskins, after time with both the Rams and the Bills. Antwan Odom of the Bengals and Jared Allen of the Vikings are #2 and #3 in the NFL in sacks, after beginning their careers in Tennessee and Kansas City, respectively. Darren Sharper is leading the NFL in interceptions in New Orleans, after many years in both Green Bay and Minnesota. Asante Samuel is #2 in picks in the NFL for Philadelphia, after beginning his career in New England.
That’s just what I could find in a few minutes on NFL.com using the first 6 games of this season. A quick glance at last season’s leaders shows a similar pattern. Brees, Warner, and Jay Cutler led the NFL in passing yards in 2008 – two of them with different-than-original teams, and of course Cutler changed teams this offseason. Turner, Portis, and Jones were #2, #4, and #5 in the NFL in rushing last season. Joey Porter, John Abraham, and Jared Allen were #2, #3, and #5 in the NFL in sacks last season.
I didn’t even go into the offensive lines, as I’m not sophisticated enough to be able to statistically grade their play and rank them. However, the movement of OL players from team-to-team is no different than that of other positions. Fans in Seattle still talk about some guy named ‘Steve Hutchinson’. Is he doing well nowadays?
Currently, there are four undefeated teams in the NFL: Indianapolis, Denver, Minnesota, and New Orleans. Only one of these four ball-clubs is led by a QB that they drafted. Is Chicago any worse of an organization than Green Bay, New York (Jets), or San Diego? Or, could the play of Orton, Brees, and Favre be used as single data points to prove this?
For ‘former players being successful in other organizations’ to be used as fodder to prove that the Chicago Bears’ front office doesn’t know their poop from apple butter, one would have to do a study of ALL 32 organizations, or at least a significant sample of those with consistent winning, losing, and mediocre seasons. Then one could accurately judge the Bears’ propensity to let good talent go against other organizations within the NFL, and not simply look at the Bears’ player-history in a vacuum.
And what about the flip-side of the coin? How many players have the Bears let go that have failed with other organizations and left the NFL? Do the folks who think the Bears neglected Benson and made a huge mistake by letting him go also feel the same way about Tank Johnson? In my opinion, one can’t logically discuss one situation (letting good players go) without discussing the other (letting bad players go).
Of course, nobody who writes these other articles (I’m calling you out, angryandy and David Haugh) is going to do a cogent, logical, statistically-relevant study and subsequent article about this subject. It’s much easier to write angry, second-guessing, hindsight-filled hit pieces.