Devin Hester Is the Reason the Chicago Bears Are in the Playoffs

Darrell HorwitzSenior Writer IIDecember 22, 2010

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 12: Devin Hester #23 of the Chicago Bears runs against Brandon Meriweather #31 of the New England Patriots at Soldier Field on December 12, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Patriots defeated the Bears 36-7. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Chicago Bears radio announcer Jeff Joniak has a favorite phrase for return man Devin Hester: "Devin Hester, you are ridiculous."

Hester broke a 64-yard punt return for the record Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings in the ice-skating rink that normally houses the Minnesota Golden-Gophers. It looked like Hester was wearing skates as he easily eluded Viking tacklers en route to his record-breaking 14th career return TD, eclipsing the mark of Brian Mitchell, who took 211 more games to amass his record.

That's not even counting his 92-yard return on the kickoff in the Super Bowl in 2006, or his 106-yard return of a missed field goal attempt that same year.

As Devin Hester goes, so go the Bears.

He's the reason they played in the Super Bowl in 2006, with five returns for touchdowns, along with a 26.4 kick return average and 12.8 on punts.

The Bears have shocked a lot of people with their success this year, securing a playoff spot with their victory against the Vikings.

The reasons for the sudden turnaround varies, from luck and an easy schedule, to the possibility that the Bears actually are a good team.

Let's stop that thought right now: They're not.

They are an opportunistic team that has taken advantage of the fortunes that have come their way, including the best return man in the history of the league falling into their lap.

In one of the few good draft choices by Bears GM Jerry Angelo, he used a second round pick in 2006 to select Hester from the University of Miami.

The rest is history, and Lovie Smith should be thanking his lucky stars every day for that.

Without Hester, the Bears are a mediocre team, but it takes two to tango. Aside from Hester, the Chicago Bear special teams are very special because of the players working an often unglamourous job, and the guru who has turned them into the best unit in the league for the past several seasons, Dave Toub.

Robbie Gould has been one of the most accurate field goal kickers in the history of the league since he joined the team, while punter Brad Maynard is the master of kicking the ball out of bounds inside the twenty.

Just as in real estate, it's location, location, location, and the Bears consistently have the best field position in the league thanks to Hester, along with Danieal Manning and Johnny Knox at times.

For a while early in Hester's career, teams kicked the ball out of bounds and put the Bears on the forty-yard-line rather than take a chance and put the ball in Hester's hands. But anyway you look at it, the Bears ended up with a short field.

He is one of the most electrifying players in the league, and what he brings to the team is probably worth at least a couple of extra wins per year because of his returns.

As long as he's on the team and playing the way he is, the Bears can continue to paraphrase the Statue of Liberty creed, "Give us your tired, your poor, and your huddled masses with their own version of the famous saying. "Give us your weak, your crippled, and your bad, and we'll beat them."

But if Hester and the special teams falter, and the Bears play a really good team, it might be time to go into hibernation, because isn't that what Bears do this time of year?