It's that time of year again. Time to pour over the Bears roster and coaching staff and try and compile a top 10 list of most important Bears for the upcoming season. It's not necessarily a list of who will make the biggest impact, or who will put up the best numbers, but just a list of guys I think may contribute most to the Bears success in 2010. The series will kick off with #10 on Tuesday, June 28th, but before then let's take a look at last years list and where things may have gone wrong for Chicago.
Last year after the big Jay Cutler trade optimism was at a high, the Kool-aid was in full effect, and dreams of a return trip to the Super Bowl was on the minds of Bear fans. Every team needs certain things to go right to pick up wins in the NFL, they need health, they need some luck, they need chemistry, just to name a few... Here is what I tried to base my list off last season;
Some things I thought about when compiling this list were: what potential impact they may have, how much the team will look to the individual for guidance or leadership, how badly the team would suffer if they lost the player to injury, and other intangible attributes.
Yes, I just blockquoted myself.
When revisiting last years list it's telling that three of my top 10 are no longer on the team, the two coaches on the list have new responsibilities, three players on the list battled nagging injuries parts, if not most, of the season, and one player on the list missed all but a half of football. Even when all the pieces are in place you need those pieces to came through. If there is as many issues with the 2010 version of the top 10 as there were in '09 we can expect another losing season. Here is last years top ten. (Click on the number for a link to last years post for each individual)
#10 - Nathan Vasher, CB - Hoping for a return to Pro Bowl form was a lot to ask of Vasher last year, but with secondary questions that's exactly what they needed. It took all of one game before he was benched in favor of untested Zackary Bowman. He's a Charger now.
#9 - Kevin Payne, SS - WCG Favorite Payne was counted on to help stabilize a position Lovie Smith has shuttled players in and out of. The Bears were losing Mike Brown and desperately needed someone to step in with some heady play. Rookie Al Afalava outplayed him and took over at SS. He's a Ram now.
#8 - Rod Marinelli, D-Line Coach - I think he did an adequate job last year, but it wasn't the kind of drastic improvement most fans expected. Mark Anderson made strides in his all around play last season, but where was the jump in play from Marcus Harrison? He got himself a promotion to Defensive Coordinator. Lucky him.
#7 - Devin Hester, WR/Returner - Hester had a solid year. He could have reached most receiving expectations had he not missed a few games late in the year. As as punt returner he failed to make an impact.
#6 - Lovie Smith, Defensive Coordinator - Lovie did such a good job coordinating the defense that he stripped himself of the responsibility. And that's all I got to say about that.
#5 - Matt Forte, RB - Coming off a workhorse type rookie year, most experts thought Forte would blow up and be a Pro Bowl type player. Plans to decrease his touches to keep him fresh seemed like a great idea and would only help his overall success. Losing Kevin Jones sent those plans out the window, and the injury bug put him at less than 100% the entire year.
#4 - Orlando Pace, LT - I guess in hindsight counting on a guy the Rams didn't want was wishful thinking. Counting on him to return to form and keep defensive ends off Cutler was borderline goofy. He's done with football.
#3 - Tommie Harris, DT - Injuries (and a bad attitude) hurt most of his season, but he did have a strong finish. Had Harris played the entire year like he played the last few weeks the defense would have been much different.
#2 - Brian Urlacher, MLB - Losing Urlacher hurt the defense on so many levels. His leadership was missed, his knowledge of getting players lined up was missed, his football I.Q. in seeing what the offense was trying to do was missed, and of course no MLB plays the Tampa 2 like he does.
#1 - Jay Cutler, QB - He tried to force to many throws, he didn't trust his offensive line (rightfully so), he never looked settled in the pocket or settled in the Ron Turner offense, and he simply made too many bonehead mistakes.
The 2010 version of the top 10 will have some new faces for sure. Be sure to tune in every Tuesday and Thursday to get in on the discussion.