For this being a slow Chicago Bears news day, I sure found some articles around the web to rile me up. Last year at this time, the Bears were every ‘experts’ pick to challenge for the NFC North title and maybe even a Super Bowl. All of this because we traded for quarterback Jay Cutler.
Well, we all know how the 2009 season went.
Now, a year later, and the Bears are not even a blip on the 2010 playoff radar. A team that looked awful at times last year, still found a way to win seven games and even when the season was all but over, beat two division rivals to close out the year.
This same 7-9 team has now added three immediate impact free agents and an offensive coordinator who understands what it takes to score in this league, Mike Martz. They have also added veteran offensive line coach Mike Tice who brings experience and respect to an o-line that under achieved last year.
Add that to the fact that veterans and team leaders Brian Urlacher, Olin Kreutz, Charles Tillman and Tommie Harris all seem to be fully recovered from the injuries that have hampered them for the last few seasons; to go along with the possibility of two new starting safeties (a position that killed the Bears last year), the young receiving group having a full year to get more familiar with Cutler and playing wide out in the NFL, and Cutler having the chance to show off his talents under the aforementioned offensive coordinator; the Bears have to better than last year, right?Maybe the over hype of last year has scared some of the ‘experts’ away. Even though all the Bears did last summer was add one player. Granted, he is a former Pro Bowl quarterback just coming into his prime, but he is still only one player. This year the Bears have several new players that should contribute to a winning season. Of course the big names get the most buzz (Julius Peppers, Chester Taylor) but, there’s also new guys Brandon Manumaneula, Tim Jennings, Chris Harris and Major Wright. Not to mention young players that have been on the roster and are now starting to show their potential; Woody Turenne, Lance Louis, Johan Asiata and Jaron Gilbert.
Everywhere you look the Bears are getting bashed. Heck, you don’t even have to look past Halas Hall to find doubters. The criticism has been ongoing since the minute last season ended. From early bashing about not being able to find new coordinators, to up to the minute hate about not doing enough this offseason. But as I stated back in January…
There’s an article on Yahoo! Sports that doesn’t make sense to me: Running back rankings for the upcoming 2010 season. I guess losing a proven, all-around, eight year NFL veteran running back in Chester Taylor and replacing him with a second round, one dimensional, fullback type rookie is an even swap. It is according to Yahoo! Sports Jason Cole.
First, I don’t understand the logic used by Cole. He states that his rankings are more of a team based ranking where quality depth matters, but then goes and makes the Minnesota Princelets and Tennessee Titans one and two, respectively. Neither one of these teams has a proven backup to their starter. Yes, their starters are Pro Bowlers and out gained some teams all on their own, but isn’t this supposed to be a team thing? Let us not forget that Titans Chris Johnson is not happy with his employer and Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson better look up Tiki Barber to help him with his fumble problems before he becomes more of a liability than an asset.
Cole goes on to rank Carolina and Baltimore at three and four. Understandably.
But then a shocker, the Cincinnati Bengals. Bears cast off Cedric Benson and……..oh yeah, Bernard Scott (321 rushing yards last year) are the fifth best running back tandem in the NFL. I guess all you need is a half season of good ball to make up for three lousy seasons in a city that tried everything to make you a star.
Six, seven and eight go on to baffle me as well. The teams sound good on paper, but looking at the ‘09 season, they might be going off reputation alone. At number six, the Jacksonville Jaguars. Maurice Jones-Drew is legit, but who is Rashard Jennings (202 yards in ’09). Number seven, the Atlanta Falcons. Looking at Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood, you would think the Falcons are set at running back. However, Turner missed five games last season due to injury, Norwood missed six. The two totaled only 1,123 yards last season. At eight, the New York Jets. Yes, the Jets were the best running team in the league last year. However, former Bear and leading Jets rusher Thomas Jones is now in Kansas City, new Jet LaDanian Tomlinson is not the same back he was a few years ago and upstart Shonn Greene has yet to prove he can carry the bulk of the plays for a whole season or block and catch out of the backfield. And Pro Bowl offensive lineman Alan Feneca is no longer up front blocking.
Number 11, the San Francisco 49ers. OK, Frank Gore is good, but unless head coach Mike Singletary decides to strap up his chin strap and try out a new position, I don’t see how the team has much depth. 2009 rookie third round pick Glen Coffey should be the number two back behind Gore, Coffey totaled 302 yards from scrimmage last year.
And finally, at number 12, our Chicago Bears.
To many, Bears running back Matt Forte had a sophomore slump in his second NFL season. Looking at the stats, Forte had 929 yards rushing, 57 catches for 471 yards and four touchdowns. All while playing through a sprained MCL in his knee. To some, those numbers make a successful season. Unfortunately, Forte set his own bar too high in his rookie year and it seems some doubt has been set on his ability to carry a team. Enter free agent running back Chester Taylor. The best running back in this year’s free agent class, Taylor is the perfect fit for a Martz run offense. His age (30) is the only question surrounding his success with the Bears, but by him being a career number two back, that which will continue with the Bears, he should have enough tread left on the tires to justify his big off season contract.
The Bears have also worked to improve the guys blocking for Forte and Taylor. As mentioned before, Tice comes in to straighten out the guys in the trenches. Chris Williams and Frank Omiyale get to move back to their natural tackle positions and Kruetz should come back completely healthy from an ailing Achilles that plagued him all of ’09.
Being 12th out of 32 is not bad at all. But do the teams ahead of the Bears really have players that are better? Am I just looking at the Bears with loving eyes and navy and orange blood?
There are still plenty of mini camps and training camps to come this summer. No matter what happens in those camps, I’m sure the Bears will still be placed third, dare I say even fourth, in the division by many.
Until the Bears win a Championship or at least compete for one as they did just four years ago, the ‘experts’ will have nothing but bad things to say.
Tune in next summer (or all season long) to see just how very wrong they are.