Before starting this post, I hadn’t really decided on my “favorite” Bear. For years, I have said that asking me to choose my favorite bear was like asking a parent to choose their favorite child: I love them all for different reasons. Of course, when I was young saying this I was always referring to the impossible task of deciding whether I prefer the soft lustrous fur and phenomenal back strength of the majestic Kodiak Grizzly or the adorable, plump, friendly, black-and-white, voracious bamboo predator known as the Giant Panda.
When I thought about declaring my favorite current Bear, I figured I should come up with criteria. It should be someone who was drafted by the Bears, right? Someone who has been a steady contributor since they were drafted, and played at least a few years on the team. Certainly they should be a starter. These criteria quickly left me picking between Kyle Long, Charles Leno Jr., and ... is Kyle Fuller a starter?
If I ever doubted that the Bears are a rebuilding team, looking at the roster from this perspective removed that doubt. I like Kyle Long, and I considered writing up a post explaining why he was the obvious choice: he’s a long time Bear with consistently great performance, position flexibility, and fun personality who’s taken on an increasing leadership role.
I took a different route. As a fan who embraces the idea of rebuilding, I asked myself which young player has brought me the most joy and hope for the Bears future. The answer to this question was easy. Watching the 2016 Bears, nothing invoked more involuntary chortles of delight than watching Jordan Howard push several yards past the point I assumed he’d be tackled.
Like many Bears fans—both fans of actual Grizzlies and Chicago’s glorious NFL franchise—toughness and strength are qualities I admire. Howard embodied those qualities in his tremendous rookie season and surprised us all with over 1300 yards and a Pro Bowl invitation. While Howard has speed and finesse, he makes his living with tough between-the-tackles runs and consistently plowing, trucking, dragging, and otherwise powering his way into impressive yards after contact.
As previously reported on WCG via the worst infographic of all time, Howard led the league in yards between the tackles his rookie season. His running style synergizes well with the other strength of the Bears’ offense: Josh Sitton, Cody Whitehair, and the aforementioned Kyle Long. This stellar interior offensive line trio allows Jo Ho (nickname pending) to demonstrate impressive zone running vision and decision-making while pushing the ball downfield with relentless enthusiasm.
As I get older, player personality matters less and less to me. Let’s be honest, they are all peri-mature whippersnappers with a lot of growing up ahead of them. For Howard’s part, he refrains from saying anything obnoxious on social media, and half of his feed is re-tweets of the Chicago Bears’ official twitter. It was nice to see that he put up his own money for a fundraising challenge to raise money for the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, especially considering ten thousand dollars is not insignificant on a rookie contract. Overall, it seems that Howard has maintained humility and stayed hungry following his successful rookie year, and that’s all I can ask for from the focal piece of the Bears’ offense. I’d settle for a lot less for a player who seriously ties the running game together.
Coming out, there were concerns about Jo Ho’s top-end speed. NFL’s next gen stats showed he posted the 2nd highest top speed among all running backs in 2016. If you were wondering who had the fastest, it was Tevin Coleman, who only ran a quarter mile per hour faster despite Wikipedia telling me he weighs an emaciated 205 pounds—18 less than the stout and hearty Howard. To demonstrate how superior Jo Ho really is, I calculated his kinetic energy and momentum at that top speed: values that best everyone who ran faster than him with 4,905 joules of kinetic energy and 996 kilogram meters per second of momentum.
Pundits have criticized Jo Ho for his below-average receiving skills. Why am I not mad about this? Because Howard can play passing downs like a Bear and actually stand his ground and block a blitzing defender. Why would I want a running back who prances around the open field whining for the ball when I have one who can put his paws under a defenders pads, finish him to the ground, then slather some huckleberry compote on the hapless chump and enjoy a pancake brunch. If you want this dominant ursine spectacle to carry the ball for you, it should be worth the effort the actually carry the ball to him instead of tossing it like a cheap lager.
Some people call him the Bulldozer. A few call him J How. It’s possible someone calls him How Wow the Bell Cow. Presumably, whoever named him calls him Jordan. In my household, the cheers he provokes always come in the simple, chant-able form of “Jo Ho.” Care to chant with me?
Jo Ho. Jo Ho. Jo Ho. Jo Ho. Jo Ho. Jo Ho.
Let me know if you’re on board the Jo Ho train or want to share who your favorite current Bear is below.