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30-Day challenge: Changing one moment in Bears history

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Every day in June, we’ll ask a different Chicago Bears-related question to our readers. Participate so we can get to know the WCG community. Today, we’re changing one moment in Bears history.

Who knows how the Bears offense with Jay Cutler would’ve performed with this tight end in the fold.

There’s a simple concept that too many coaches in professional football don’t understand. Instead of tailoring an offensive or defensive scheme to put a talented player to good use as best as possible, some coaches will instead elect to fit a square peg into a round hole and push said talent into unnecessary as well as complicated constraints so that they never reach their potential.

In the case of the “mad genius” Mike Martz - the famed architect of the St. Louis Rams’ late 1990’s “Greatest Show On Turf” offense - and former now much maligned Chicago Bears offensive coordinator, it was about throwing away the round hole altogether and smashing it into unrecognizable pieces.

Yes, we’re discussing the infamous Greg Olsen trade to the Carolina Panthers because the extremely gifted Olsen “didn’t fit” Martz’s offense as a tight end. A trade in which people in Chicago are so kindly reminded of every time Olsen catches another 75-plus passes, or makes a ridiculous touchdown reception, or makes another Pro Bowl slash All-Pro team.

Trading away a bright, rising star as Olsen makes little sense on it’s own even without considering any other context.

When you consider that the Bears jettisoned their best pass catcher when he was just 26-years-old in 2011 - one of the best young tight ends in the NFL - because their offensive coordinator didn’t believe they could effectively deploy Olsen in his archaic system, this deal becomes all the more worse in hindsight.

Before the Bears dealt Olsen, he hadn’t yet reached his true potential, of course. In the Bears offense, where quarterback Jay Cutler was often sacked an immeasurable amount of times with set limitations because of a poor offensive line, it took time for Olsen to round into form without opportunity. The most amount of passes he ever caught with Chicago was 60 receptions in 2009, not by coincidence Cutler’s first season with the Bears.

The next year, when Martz hopped on board, somehow the Bears began phasing out their best receiver as his numbers dropped to a still effective but now paltry in comparison, 45 receptions for 540 yards, and five touchdowns. No one knew it then, but the last touchdown Olsen would ever catch with the Bears was the opening salvo of Chicago’s comfortable 35-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the 2011 Divisional Playoffs.

Ever since the Bears lost one of the best security blankets in football, Olsen has in turn become that superstar level player for the Panthers’ Cam Newton. It’s rare the season now where the 32-year-old doesn’t catch at least 80 passes, garner 1,000 yards, and find his way consistently into the end zone as the dynamic red zone threat he is.

In essence, Olsen has become the player the Bears originally envisioned when selecting him with the 31st overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. By happen stance, none of his best ever came with the Bears because of a coach’s over thinking and quite frankly, sheer arrogance.

It’s not fair to automatically, unequivocally say Olsen would’ve been as productive with the Bears if he had stayed on - these kinds of scenarios aren’t played out in a vacuum. But given his ability and refinement over the years, it’s a safe assumption nonetheless.

If the Bears had never traded Olsen, they likely never sign Martellus Bennett. They don’t have a revolving door at tight end for the next six seasons. They don’t use a second-round on an admittedly bright talent like Adam Shaheen in 2017. The butterfly effect here with Olsen’s play not even factored in is almost too painful to track on it’s own.

Olsen with his merits, would’ve probably also been in contention to be the best Bears tight end ever at his current pace. Yet, all this potential was thrown away for a measly third-round draft pick.

Just imagine the salt in the wound should Olsen ever don a yellow jacket in Canton or do something like say become Super Bowl MVP. Football negotiations are not for the faint of heart.

Now the floor is yours. What moment in Bears history would you amend?

Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times and is an editor for Windy City Gridiron. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.