I love Mike Brown, I really do, possibly more than a man should love another man but...
I'm sick of everyone posting on sites that if the Bears had only kept Mike the Free Safety position would be set. It wouldn't. This isn't the Mike of '02 or '05. This isn't the all singing all dancing kamakazi Mike that wowed Soldier Field and the NFL with interceptions and layed out Wide outs. It's 2009 and Mike's injurys have caught up on him.
What people seem to conveniently forget is that Mike spent a little over half of last season at Strong Safety. Payne was at Free Safety for the second half of the season, unfortunately proving that he's best at Strong Safety. The two seasons previous Mike wasn't on the field enough games to 'solve' either safety spot. Unfortunately, years of laying the wood and robbing QB's have caught up with MIke.
Mikes leadership and communication will, NO DOUBT, be hugely missed. His ability to read the game will be missed. His experience and heart will be missed. His obvious love for the Bears fans, players and organisation will be missed. I'm welling up just thinking how much.
The Bears may not have the ideal replacement at free safety in Steltz, Bullocks or Graham but each can play FS these days, while unfortunately, Mike cannot. Payne is a better SS than Mike at this point in his career and I firmly believe will make the position his own for years to come. Though none amongst this group would strike anyone as Mike Brown in his pomp BUT with a good pass rush they'll do enough.
Each have more range at this moment in time than Mike. Each have more 'upside'. None will replace Mike Brown in the hearts of Bears fans but they may just help ease this team towards the playoffs with fresher legs and bodies. Teams feel they can cope with 'serviceable' safetys (guys that try hard and don't mess up too much) so hopefully the Bears will.
I love Mike Brown and hope he does well with the Chiefs before coming back to Chi town as a coach. If this Bears team had Mike in his prime we'd be booking flights to Miami for next February. But if 2009 Mike was still on this team they wouldn't be any stronger than they are, except maybe in the locker room with this legend of a man talking them though.