While looking at the bad teams from last year, there seems to be a running theme: issues at the quarterback position.
Last year’s Chicago Bears team was held hostage by an inept offense. The man who took the lion’s share of the blame was Rex Grossman.
Good Rex was a pretty good deep ball thrower who could, at times, make big plays in bunches. He was able to lead his team to the Super Bowl in 2006, eventually losing to the Indianapolis Colts.
Bad Rex is the quarterback who showed up in the Super Bowl against the Colts, and unfortunately remained for most of the 2007 season. Bad Rex is a turnover machine who doesn’t handle snaps, makes awful decisions, and completely demoralizes his own team.
Needless to say, Bad Rex was a big part of the disappointing 2007 Bears’ season.
This season, Bad Rex is now Benched Rex. He’s officially been replaced by Kyle Orton, who is as boring as Rex is erratic.
Orton does nothing well, but nothing awful. He’s not flashy. He lacks big play making ability, but also isn’t likely to make a team-killing play.
In other words, he’s Trent Dilfer. Only less interesting. And not as good on TV.
I’m not sure Kyle Orton is going to take anyone to the promise land, but he’s far less likely to prevent a team from getting there than Rex Grossman.
The problems began at quarterback for the 2007 Bears, but it didn’t end there. Even when Rex handed the ball off, there were issues.
Cedric Benson may go down as one of the larger busts in NFL history and Adrian Peterson is as average as they come. The Bears needed an upgrade at the running back position, especially with Kyle Orton running the show.
In walks Matt Forte and Kevin Jones.
Matt Forte is a tenacious runner who has propelled himself into the starting role. The organization loves him, the coaching staff loves him, and best of all, he’s not Cedric Benson.
Kevin Jones seems to have recovered well from an injury-plagued 2007 season. I’m sure he thought he was walking into an easy starting gig in Chicago, but it’s looking more and more like a tandem situation with Forte starting and Jones coming off the bench.
If they both stay healthy, this could actually be one of the better running back combinations in the NFL.
On the offensive line, center Olin Kruetz is a stud. Rookie Chris Williams may be the key to the left side of the line, but he’s still recovering from back surgery. Robert Garza and John Tait should firm up the right side of the offensive line.
Marty Booker wasn’t good enough to make the Dolphins’ roster, so the Bears quickly signed him and named him their number one receiver.
Devin Hester is a great kick returner, but the jury’s out on him as an offensive force. Rashied Davis has looked good in the preseason. Brandon Lloyd is Brandon Lloyd. Wide receiver isn’t exactly a position of strength, but then, neither is quarterback. So they complement each other well.
The defensive side of the ball is a whole other animal entirely. The defense is good enough alone to keep them in competition for a playoff spot in the NFC.
Tommy Harris was given a new contract over the off-season, and unlike some other defensive linemen who have barely earned the ridiculous sum of money they received (see Tommy Kelly), Tommy Harris may still be underpaid.
He’s a beast—a monster—and he might be the best defensive tackle in the NFL.
Along with Adewale Ogunleye, Harris anchors one of the best defensive lines in football.
Brian Urlacher is a tackling machine at middle linebacker. I’m not one of those “Urlacher is the greatest ever” guys, but he’s certainly in the upper-tier of middle linebackers. Lance Briggs combines with Urlacher to help make up a tremendous group of linebackers.
Nathan Vasher is one of the best corners in the NFC when healthy. Charles Tillman is a pretty good number two guy and is the more physical of the two corners. Mike Brown is a great free safety when he’s on the field. Of course, he’s very rarely on the field.
If Vasher and Brown can stay healthy (which is a big if), the Bears’ defense has very few holes.
Of course, you can’t talk about the Bears without talking about their special teams.
Devin Hester may be a work in progress at wide receiver, but he’s a hall-of-famer in progress as a kick returner. He may be the single most dangerous weapon in the NFL on kick returns.
It’s amazing he ever sees the ball. He’d never see a punt, were I an opposing coach. Heck, he’d never see a kickoff. I’d kick the ball out of bounds and let that offense start on their own 40 yard line every possession before I’d give their best player a chance to beat me.
Devin Hester returning kicks or good field position for Kyle Orton? I’ll take Orton, thanks.
Matt Forte / Kevin Jones
This team is going to run the ball a LOT. Forte will see a ton of carries. Jones, if he stays healthy, will see a ton of carries. The Bears know that the less they pass the ball, the better off they’ll be.
Fighting for draft picks, fighting for the playoffs, or contending for the Super Bowl?
In the NFC, the Bears will be fighting for the playoffs.
Eight wins, brought about by a fantastic defense. Eight losses, brought about by a pathetic offense.
Sean Crowe is a Senior Writer and an NFL Community Leader at Bleacher Report. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His archive can be found here. You can find everything he writes, including articles for other publications, here.