Chicago Bears: Why Matt Forte Is a Boom or Bust Running Back

Brett Solesky@@MidwayBearsBlogCorrespondent IJuly 20, 2012

Matt Forte
Matt ForteWesley Hitt/Getty Images

Now that Matt Forte has signed his long-term deal with the Chicago Bears, we can analyze what type of player Forte is. 

At first glance, Matt Forte is a great option out of the backfield. He's the first running back in NFL history to total over 900 yards rushing and 400 yards receiving in each of his first four seasons.  This makes Forte a complete back to most observers. 

Diving down into the metrics of Matt Forte's 2011 season, reveals something quite different. 

According the 2012 Football Outsiders Almanac, Matt Forte's great season may have been a complete aberration. 

"Matt Forte’s 2011 season is another fine example. One reason his year looked so good is that he had to play only two games against teams that ranked among the top dozen in run defense DVOA. His four 100-yard games came against the defenses ranked 18th (Detroit), 19th (Philadelphia), 30th (Tampa Bay), and dead last (Carolina) in run defense DVOA."

In the Carolina game, Forte had 205 yards rushing and 599 in those other four games. This translates to 60 percent of his total rushing yards for the season. 

Adding to this bit of bloated statistics is just how bad of a goal line back Forte is.

According to a recent statistical study by, Forte had 33 carries from inside the five-yard line and only scored three touchdowns.  That's the worst of any running back in the NFL and likely the primary reason why Michael Bush was brought in. 

On the other hand, there are reasons why some consider Forte an elite running back.   

Forte led the NFL in carries that went for 20-40 yards. He had 16 carries on the season that went for big yards, and in almost all of those carries Forte didn't get touched until he was well into the secondary. 

According to footballoutsiders he was fourth in the NFL with 36 broken tackles on the season.  

While Forte is statistically one of the most productive backs in the league in terms of yards from scrimmage, he is also one of the worst short-yardage backs in the NFL. 

What hurts Forte the most is his upright rushing style in combination with the Bears' poor short-yardage blocking offensive line. 

The reason the Bears have such a high level of success running the football is primarily due to the athletic talents of both Forte and the O-Line. 

When the Bears' linemen are given the chance to get out in front of Forte and get to the second level, he typically exploits that with his elusiveness and acceleration in the open field. 

The Bears were smart to bring in Michael Bush, because he is the opposite of what Forte is. Bush is a power back who gains the tough yards. He's not a power back in the Marion Barber sense of trying to constantly run people over and searching for contact; rather, he keeps his momentum always moving forward. 

Bush is the ideal complement to Forte because he can be the thunder to Forte's lightning, and in turn help the Bears' offense in short-yardage and goal line situations. 

Even smarter was the way the Bears didn't overpay Forte for what turned out to be rather average NFL-level production.