With about a week to go until Thanksgiving I was sitting here taking a moment to reflect on what I'm thankful for. I've got a fantastic son, a wonderful job, and nothing but good things on the horizon on a personal and professional level. With all of these very good things, it brought me back to what has been a very disappointing season for the Chicago Bears at this point in the season. However, this isn't the time of year for would haves, could haves, bad coaching, bad general managing, and human turn-stiling. This is the time of year where everyone takes a few moments to be thankful for the good things that we have, and the good things we have to look forward to.
There are tons of things to be thankful for even with the embarrassing state of the team at the moment, but I'm going to stick to my top 5. I encourage everyone to post a few things they are thankful for, and if they feel like it a personal thing they are thankful for as well.
Pro tip: If you can't think of anything, you can always be thankful you aren't a cheese head.
1. We have a legitimate high level QB in this league with talent in spades, and we have him locked up for the foreseeable future.
For what we all may think about his red zone interceptions there isn't any kind of question about Jay Cutler's talent. He can make every single throw on the field, and make them in windows that very few other QB in the league would have a chance of making. He has a great ability extend the play, better than most of the QB in the league at that facet of the game, and certainly much better than any quarterback that has graced the Bears franchise in years and years and years. On top of this he's still a relatively young quarterback that has room to grow. He's a veteran by virtue of experience, but he certainly hasn't hit his seasoned wise veteran QB status yet like your Peyton Manning, or Tom Brady. I'm sure we're all hoping he gets to grow into that status with an offensive line that is built around him, but until then for the first time since Jim McMahon we have a distinct lack of quarterback controversy and clamoring for the backup in the Windy City, and in this case silence is definitely golden.
2. The Devin Hester experiment is starting to pay off in a huge way, and could end up being a very smart move by Bears brass.
Devin Hester is in the top three for the most electrifying return men of all time, and holds the number one slot in my book. It's because of this fact and his unquestioned talent in the return game that made myself and many other fans weary of the idea of infecting him with DMS by putting him on the offensive side of the ball as a WR, and even more gasps from the gallery when it was announced that his returning duties would be lessened to get him more time on the offense. What a difference a year makes? Devin Hester has improved by leaps and bounds and is quickly becoming a threat to opposing defenses all over the field. While we always knew he had afterburners for legs and figured he'd be good for a bomb or two a year, this year his route running and knowledge of the offense has drastically improved. The Windy City Flyer is now pulling down tough passes across the middle, and hanging onto the ball after some tough hits. Simply put, Devin Hester is growing into at the very least a fantastic number two receiver and quite possibly the best option we've had a receiver since Waddle or Gault.
3. Johnny Knox appears to be one of the biggest steals in the 2009 draft, and is only getting better.
It's not often that what appeared to be an immense black hole on the offense turns out to be one of the few highlights of a season. Our WR corp was fairly abysmal last year, and has been for quite some time. Even the one known as Berrian that Bears fans clamored for, well at least until they heard his contract demands, was little more than a speedy number two that avoided contact. The years of the Moose came and went, Booker rose from the dead only to be sent back to the graveyard. Then out of nowhere a player we grab with a pick we received in the Cutler trade shows some real promise in the preseason, and only continues to rapidly improve every time we see him on the field. He's easily a match in speed for one of the speediest players in the league, his fellow receiver Hester, and his ability to pick up finer points of the game as quickly as he has speaks volumes towards his ability to improve in the future. It's not often that a first year receiver has any impact, let alone the impact Fort Knox has already had, and even more rare for it to come from a fifth round pick.
4. Lance Briggs is locked up in a long term deal that should last until the "end" of his career.
We had an ugly situation and contract dispute with Lance Briggs that looked to all outside observers, Bears management, and even Briggs himself to be ending with Lance playing for another team. Of course, we all know this ended with Briggs signing a six year deal in '08 locking him up until he's 33 years old and on his way out of the league. Easily one of the luckiest things to end up happening to this team as Briggs is now the sole member of the starting LB group that is still on the field, and is the only player on the defensive side of the ball that should be proud of his performance virtually every single down on the field. It's definitely good to know that even though we're due for some significant retooling because of injury, age, and otherwise that we have a rock solid foundational player to build off of with Lance standing behind the line.
When Greg Olson was originally drafted it looked like a first round steal, a player that was easily the best tight end in that years draft and a legitimate top 15 player fell into our laps and we hopped on it. Since that initial honeymoon period things have been a bit rocky in the relationship for all manner of reasons. Some of it stemming from being behind an aging but still extremely game Dez Clark, some of it stemming from learning the game speed and becoming a more reliable blocker in the backfield, and some stemming from a lack of play calling support. No matter the reason, Olson has been looked at as a possible breakout player since the first year he entered the league and he's finally starting to show it this year. Greg has finally garnered enough notice that it appears opposing defenses are setting two people to the task of shutting him down due to the threat he represents. The questions about his toughness and hands have started be silenced by some fantastic catches he's made this year, and the rapport he's started to build with Cutler is becoming more evident every game. With the increased ability being shown by all members of the WR group from Hester and Knox, to the second year man Bennett it won't be long until defenses can not afford to dedicate two men to stopping him on most plays.
On a related note, Kellen Davis has finally started to show some promise as well filling in for the injured Clark who is entering the twilight of his career. Finally showing some flashes he may yet prove to be a valuable second TE for our 2TE sets, as long as can increase his blocking ability over the next few years.
So those are the things I'm thankful for on our beloved Chicago Bears, what about the rest of you? What bright points are dragging you back to the bar every week to watch our Bears attempt to stay in the playoff picture? What good things are going on in your life that make the bitter medicine of our current predicament a bit easier to swallow?