For a couple seasons now, Bears players have been handed starting roles with absolutely no competition in training camp or preseason. Four players that jump to the forefront of my mind are: Rex Grossman, Cedric Benson, Mark Anderson, Adam Archuleta. Three out of four of those players are now a total loss, IMHO. (Well, Archuleta was a loss before he came to the Bears, so maybe we shouldn't count him.)
This is all Monday morning quarterbacking, but let's look at the players who were forced to sit out for the majority of the season, or forced to look for starting jobs elsewhere by the Bears' brilliant personnel moves:
1. Cedric Benson was handed the starting job after Thomas Jones was traded for next to nothing.
Thomas Jones: 1,119 yards on 310 carries and 1 touchdown (3.6 yards per carry), 28 catches with 217 yards and 1 touchdown. ...For the Jets, people, Jones was all they had on offense and everyone knew it. He made it through the season without a major injury too. Total offensive production = 1,336 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Cedric Benson: 674 yards and 196 carries and 4 touchdowns (3.4 yards per carry), 17 catches for 123 yards. Benson was injured during the Broncos game and missed the last five games of the season. Total offensive production = 797 yards and 4 touchdowns.
For fun, let's look at (the Bears') Adrian Peterson's stats: 510 yards on 151 carries and 3 touchdowns (3.4 yards per carry), 51 catches for 420 yards. Peterson only started five games for the Bears. Total offensive production = 930 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Now factor in Benson's complete lack of blocking ability. Does anyone remember who blew the block when Griese went down with a shoulder injury? How could the Bears' staff have dropped the ball so badly?
2. Rex Grossman had been anointed the starter over Kyle Orton and Brian Griese since the beginning of the 2006 season.
Rex Grossman: 122 of 225 (54.2%) for 1,411 yards; 4 TDs & 7 Ints; Sacked 25 times for 198 yards; Passer rating: 66.4
Brian Griese: 161 of 262 (61.5%) for 1,803 yards; 10 TDs & 12 Ints; Sacked 15 times for 114 yards; Passer rating: 75.6
Kyle Orton: 42 of 79 (53.2%) for 475 yards; 3 TDs & 2 Ints; Sacked twice for 12 yards; Passer rating: 73.5
Who would YOU start? My guess is anyone other than Rex! Here's another question: How much better would Kyle Orton be now if he was allowed to compete for the starting job and won it during preseason?
3. The acquisition of Archuleta sent Chris Harris to Carolina. The stats say it all, Bears fans:
Chris Harris: 96 tackles, 76 solo tackles, 0 sacks, 6 passes defended, 1 int, 8 forced fumbles, 3 fumbles recovered.
Adam Archuleta: 61 tackles, 54 solo tackles, 2 sacks, 4 passes defended, 1 int, 1 fumble recovered.
I almost got ill when I saw Harris' stats for Carolina this year. The Archuleta move was the single worst move the Bears made in the offseason. Did anyone in Chicago think this was a good move for the Bears in the offseason? I mean anyone outside the Bears organization?
4. Mark Anderson was awarded the starting job over Alex Brown due to the gaudy stats he earned during situational playing time in the 2006 season. Here's what each player did this season:
Alex Brown: 41 tackles, 31 solo tackles, 4.5 sacks, 2 fumbles recovered, 1 interception.
Mark Anderson: 31 tackles, 25 solo tackles, 5 sacks.
Keep in mind that Mark Anderson played 80% of the defensive snaps for the Bears for the first 14 weeks of the season. Wow.
What really bothers me is that Mark Anderson may be a total loss now, too. What the heck was wrong with using him as a situational pass rusher for at least one more year while he learns the position from a seasoned veteran like Alex Brown? And what was wrong with the way Brown played last year? What did he do to deserve being demoted without head-to-head competition? If the Bears were trying to fire him up, they failed. He was obviously angered and bitter all season long, though he said little to the press about it (give him credit for that). Anderson was exposed as a one-dimensional defensive end who could not play the run by Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor, and the Minnesota Vikings.
So what, exactly, did the Bears staff see in Anderson? During his rookie year, Anderson came in on passing downs only. And there were plenty of "third and forevers" since the Bears were playing with the lead most of the time. I don't think he was forced to make many (if any) plays on running backs breaking to the outside. I thought it was fairly obvious that Anderson was good at pinning his ears back and running down QBs, but everything else was a bit of a mystery.
I never claimed to be some kind of football guru, but aren't defensive ends primarily responsible for containing the run? I know the corners are supposed to help too, but doesn't that role fall squarely on the shoulders of the defensive ends? And isn't that the reason that so few rookies can come in at defensive end and instantly become every down players? Am I just making this stuff up in my head? Have I gone mental? I didn't think so.
Some folks may have been down on Brown's somewhat pedestrian sack production. But I haven't seen too many ends in the NFL who are better at playing outside runs or blowing up screen passes than Alex Brown. Brown is a complete defensive end, Anderson is not. How can the Bears' staff have missed that?
After the first Minnesota game, Anderson's swagger was gone. I wonder if he has much confidence left at all. Are we going to be adding Mark Anderson to the list of young players the Bears have ruined (or chased off) with their insipid personnel policies? I guess we'll find out next year.
By the way, the answer to the question, "How could the Bears staff have missed these mistakes?"
They never bothered to evaluate the players in question.
It's just that simple, folks.