Chicago Sun-Times

Bears still special, just not No. 1

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Sometimes it is more difficult to stay on top of the mountain than it is to climb it.

The Bears' special teams unit discovered that in 2008 when sharp turnover within the core group and a dramatic slip by return man Devin Hester took a toll on performance.

Still, coordinator Dave Toub's unit managed to finish eighth in the NFL and third in the NFC in rankings that were published today by Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News. Gosselin is credited with beginning the formula, that ranks special teams units in 22 categories, in 1980 when he got it from Frank Gansz, then the special teams coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. He publishes the final results every year during Pro Bowl weekend.

The Bears slipped to eighth after holding the No. 1 spot for two consecutive seasons. It is their fourth top-10 finish under Toub, who joined the organization in 2004 when Lovie Smith arrived, in five seasons. The Bears were 10th in 2004 and 11th in 2005 before Hester arrived and brought great attention to the return game leaguewide. He scored 11 return touchdowns in his first two seasons, an NFL record, but had none last season and eventually handed over kickoff return duties to Danieal Manning.

Turnover on special teams started with the departure of Brendon Ayanbadejo in free agency. He was a two-time Pro Bowl performer for the Bears and left for Baltimore last March. He will represent the Ravens in the Pro Bowl later today. Israel Idonije bulked up nearly 30 pounds to move inside to defensive tackle, and that limited his role on teams. Then changes in the starting lineup and injuries took some core performers away eventually leading Toub and the club to sign ex-Bear Cameron Worrell just to get through the season finale at Houston.

The Bears led the league in punts inside the 20 with 40 as Brad Maynard set a franchise record. They were also tops with four blocked kicks and tied for first in extra-point percentage. They ranked well in kickoff return, scoring and punt coverage.

Buffalo finished first in Gosselin's rankings, the third time in the last five years for the Bills.

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Where did the Ravens finish?? Pro Bowl voting is a joke!! Ayanbadejo is overrated!! Garrett Wolfe filled in for him just fine until he was injured! We dropped to 8th because Devin is afraid to get injured. He'll make more money if he makes more receptions, not special teams yardage!!

Hadji, there is no difference between special team yards and yards on offense. Just like there is no difference between points scored on offense, defense or special teams, 7 POINTS IS 7 POINTS. If your kick return and punt return get you 140 yards a game that is a 140 yards that go to total yardage, if a reciever gets you 75 yards in a game it's just 75 yards. Whould you rather Heste rscored 3 TD's a year as a reciever or 7 as a special team player?

If you can't tell Hester is not a natural reciever, he has speed and quickness, but lacks timming, strength, good hands, leaping ability. He cannot be the Jam, does not fight for the ball, will not go up and get the ball and catches the ball with his body. They should use Hester like they did in 07.

Hester will be fine as a receiver. If you expected him to be Steve Smith this season you were kidding yourself from the jump. As the season progressed he got more comfortable and looked like a legit receiver. Our offense is a work in progress and hopefully can grow together. With Forte, Hester, Olson, and Orton (or whoever they decide to anoint this season) grow together on offense with Williams and whoever they draft this year blocking we'll have a solid core going for the next 3-5 years. We were a few bad breaks early in the season away from the playoffs. Add a big receiver to go opposite Hester and we'll be right back in the mix.

Creighton...I was talking about Hester's contract.It is incentive based on him getting so many receptions as a receiver and so many receiving yards!!....If he gets injured on a kick or punt return, he can't play offense. Thus, he can't make the necessary catches or receiving yards needed to make his bonus!!!!!Watch the films....he sure runs out of bounds alot more than he use to!!!

I say move Hester back to cornerback!!! He can't handle the offensive playbook and the return game too! The defensive playbook is easier to learn!! Cut/trade Vasher, move Peanut to free safety, cut/trade Rasheed Davis, and get some real receivers in here.....not converted DBs. Move Israel Idonije to offensive right tackle, retain St. Clair and put him at guard, draft a pass rusher, use Wolfe to back up Forte, and bring in a new QB or let Hanie play, (Orton is a good #2). That's all we have to do, Bear fans. It's that easy!!!!!!BEAR DOWN!!!!!!

these remarks reek of sour grapes!

Dave Toub is obviously a great special teams coach, but letting Brendon Ayanbadejo was a huge mistake, just like letting Chris Harris and Thomas Jones was, the latter being even more of a fiasco because of the idiotic drafting of Cedric Benson in the first place. Not only are the Bears clearly unable to draft good offensive talent and develop it, they also often don't know when they've got a good think. These jerks would probably have let Richie Pettibone go.

Wrigley Field Bear - Both Chris Harris and Thomas Jones were traded, not let go.

hester is in his 2 year as a wr kind of quick to judge.when you listen to the coaches they seem to think all he needs is more time. and i have not seen him catch with his body anymore then any other wr. some of you sound like you hate the bears or at least have never seen them play. to the pro who wants hester back at cornerback give it a rest at worst he will be a deep threat who will make teams back off the line, wich will help forte. richie pettibone where did that come from? who cares about him? if thats all you can say maybe you should not say anything at all. give hester 2 more years and if he has not produced move him back to st but give the guy a break. it takes most wr 3 years to really produce and thats when they have played it in collage for 2-4 seasons.

Wrigley Bear,

Loved your place for the games, went to a few there myself. I too would have preferred that Harris, C and Jones stayed but it might not be so bad after all.

For Harris we got a draft pick that turned into Bowman. Now one game is not a trend but there is potential there. But Bowman's injuries here and at Nebraska are a concern. Still I would have like Harris back there the past two years.

As for Jones, I don't know a Bear fan who wanted to see him go. I concur. Still we traded our late #2 and Jones for Bauzin (injured and a bust for us), Wolfe, Payne from 2007 and Harrison from 2008. We still might get three players for the two (Jones and the pick) out of the deal. Potential but not a complete waste. Still I would have preferred Jones.

The point is you and many others here take great pleasure busting Angelo's chops for the Jones and Harris trades and then fail to recognize who we got in return.

It does no good to reductionistically rationalize which players were received for Thomas Jones. Jones was a team leader, the value of which some people like Angelo don't seem to get, to the detriment of the team. Football is the ultimate team sport, the whole being much greater than the sum of the parts. Jones is just an above average back, but his leadership has obviously been missed, even from the defense the way I hear it.

On top of that, Cedric Benson should never have been drafted in the first place, because the Bears had Jones and needed other positions, such as a left tackle, far more than they needed a second string running back, and because Benson was nowhere near good enough to be drafted fourth overall according to pro scouts from other teams.

I take no joy in bashing Jerry Angelo. I'd love to brag about our GM, but he has to give me a reason to do so.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on February 8, 2009 11:37 AM.

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