I remember the 2005 NFL Draft like it was yesterday.
I remember it because it ticked me off to no end.
That was the Cedric Benson draft. Not that taking him with the fourth pick was what made me so angry. Well, yes, it kind of was. The Bears had gone out the year before and got Thomas Jones to be the main guy. And he responded with a near 1,000-yard performance, even with missing three games (technically he only missed two, but he was injured on his first carry of the third game, which was actually the first that he "missed").
At that point in time, the Bears' defense was the unmovable force that was the Monsters of the Midway. They didn’t need much help there, even though the likes of DeMarcus Ware, Shawne Merriman, Pacman Jones, Antrel Rolle, and Carlos Rogers were all available. I would have been happy with any of those picks.
But, mostly, I wanted the Bears to take a wide receiver. They had taken Bernard Berrian the year before in the third round, but he did not show much his rookie season. The best wide receiver on the team was Muhsin Muhammad, who was a possession receiver at best.
The other starter was Justin Gage. So, with a good running attack, a terrible quarterback, terrible wide receivers, and a great defense, you would assume they would go after a QB or WR, right?
They took Cedric Benson. I am not sure if they did that because Braylon Edwards was taken right before him, but they took him, even with the likes of Mike Williams (USC and also who I wanted them to take), Mark Clayton (Oklahoma), Roddy White (who was my second choice for them to take), and Reggie Brown (Georgia) available.
Now, most of those choices didn’t pan out where they were taken, and probably wouldn’t have with the Bears, but at the time, wide receiver is what they needed, so they should have went with one of them. Instead, the Bears chose Mark Bradley (Oklahoma’s No. 2 WR) in the second round.
We all know how that turned out.
But the Cedric Benson pick is what got me. The Bears didn’t need him, and yes he was talented in college, but they could have easily waited until the later rounds to pick up a running back (Frank Gore was taken in the third, Marion Barber and Brandon Jacobs in the fourth).
I’m digressing too much. My point is that with that pick, it set up the Kyle Orton selection in the fourth round.
The 2005 NFL draft was not QB-heavy. Alex Smith went first. Aaron Rodgers was the “next guy” on everyone’s boards, along with Jason Campbell, and then it was the likes of Charlie Frye, Andrew Walter, and Kyle Orton.
At the time, Orton seemed like a great value pick in the fourth round, and he was semi-spectacular at Purdue but never seemed to be the type of quarterback that was going to become an MVP-caliber player.
Fast forward four years to now, and that pick may have become an incredible value pick, because the Bears traded him for Jay Cutler. Along with Cutler, the Bears received a fifth-round draft pick, which turned into Johnny Knox, as well.
I’m not saying they are going to become the next Joe Montana-Jerry Rice combination, but Knox has fashioned himself a good return man, as well as a decent playmaker. And it’s only his rookie season, so who knows what his ceiling could be.
With someone like Cutler throwing the ball to him, he could outdo his own potential.
The 2010 draft will be short on talent at the wide receiver position (or so the scouts say), but the free agent pool will not be.
Vincent Jackson, Brandon Marshall, Steve Breaston, Lee Evans, Braylon Edwards, Antonio Bryant, and several other good wide receivers will be available at the end of this season for the Chicago Bears to entertain ideas of signing.
If the Bears could sign a Vincent Jackson or Brandon Marshall, I believe the team would be complete. They could use some upgrades on defense, but I believe the young players they have on the defensive end of the ball are going to step up in the coming years and be great players.
They may not get back to the Monsters of the Midway status, but if the offense becomes unstoppable with Jay Cutler throwing to Jackson/Marshall, Hester, Knox, and Olsen, with Forte running the ball, the defense could give up a few extra points each game without it hurting too much.
It is just a matter of if the Bears are serious about winning and will go out and spend the money it will take to sign one of those players.
For now, though, I take back all of my anger with the 2005 draft, because all of the picks fell into place for a reason. And that reason was for the Bears to make the 2006 Super Bowl, lose, realize they needed help at QB, and then three years later trade for a Pro-Bowl-caliber quarterback who was going to lead the Bears back to the promise land.
I am not saying the Bears are a Super Bowl team yet, but it seems they are taking steps in the right direction. Super Bowl teams aren’t made overnight (unless you are the Patriots and make unbelievably one-sided trades), so the future can still be bright for the Chicago Bears.
Besides, they are 3-1 going into the bye week, and only one game behind Minnesota for the division lead. They haven’t played stellar ball, but they are still growing together as a team. By the end of the season, with more cohesiveness, they could become a dangerous team.
Maybe the Bears management knew what they were doing all along when they screwed up the draft of 2005.
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