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Who says you need a Pro Bowl wide receiver to win the Super Bowl?

Not Rick Gosselin, that is for sure.

The veteran Dallas Morning News' scribe did an interesting breakdown of Super Bowl winners from 1991 to present and how the makeup of offenses has changed. History proves you don't need an elite receiver to win the Big Game, not anymore any way. It's good news for the Bears, right? They have nine wideouts on their roster right now and two of them have more than seven career catches--Devin Hester and Rashied Davis. The other seven--Devin Aromashodu (7), John Broussard (4), Earl Bennett (0), Juaquin Iglesias (0), Johnny Knox (0), Derek Kinder (0) and Eric Peterman (0)--have 11 combined receptions. Yes, more than half of the receivers on the roster have not caught a pass in the NFL making position coach Darryl Drake's job about as important as anyone's entering this season.

"Neither of the last two Super Bowl champions - Pittsburgh in 2008 or the New York Giants in 2007 - had a Pro Bowl wide receiver that season. Neither had a Pro Bowl quarterback, for that matter. The Steelers finished 17th in the NFL in passing and the Giants were 21st.


"When the New England Patriots won back-to-back titles in the 2003 and 2004 seasons, their top wideouts failed to crack the NFL's top 30 in receiving those seasons. Deion Branch finished 42nd in 2003 and David Givens 40th in 2004. Baltimore's top wideout in its 2000 championship season was Qadry Ismail, who finished 68th in the NFL.


"Only two NFL champions in the 2000 decade lined up a Pro Bowl wide receiver in their Super Bowl seasons - Troy Brown for the Patriots in 2001 and Marvin Harrison for the Indianapolis Colts in 2006. The rest preferred quantity over quality on the flank."

Gosselin provides a chart comparing the top wideout for the Super Bowl champs from 2000 through 2008 to the top wideout for the Super Bowl champs from 1991 through 1999. Five wideouts from the 1991 to 1999 group made Pro Bowls. Two in the more recent group were selected, including Harrison for Indianapolis in 2006, the year the Colts defeated the Bears in Super Bowl XLI.

There are some key points made in this story but the question right now is not if the Bears have an elite wide receiver for new quarterback Jay Cutler. The burning question is whether or not the Bears have enough wide receivers worthy of regular playing time in the NFL? I doesn't matter if you have Cutler or Kyle Orton at quarterback, you're not going to make a living pushing the ball downfield to tight ends and running backs.

What can a dominant receiver mean in the postseason? Consider Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald, whose four-game postseason run included 30 receptions for 546 yards and seven touchdowns. To put that in perspective, Hester was the only Bears wide receiver with more yards in 2008, and the Bears haven't had a wideout score that many times since Marty Booker had eight touchdowns in 2001.

Pittsburgh's Santonio Holmes was the third wide receiver to claim Super Bowl MVP honors in the last five years. You might not need a Pro Bowl wide receiver, but you have to have one who can perform big on the sport's grandest stage. It's been 12 years since a running back was named Super Bowl MVP.


*** Over at the National Football Post, Matt Bowen likes the addition of strong-side linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa to the Bears' defense, but the thing that jumps out from this read is his assessment of new defensive line coach Rod Marinelli.

"I doubt they'll disappoint with new D-line coach Rod Marinelli, who's gotten rave reviews from former players I've talked to as well as Bears GM Jerry Angelo. "The best teaching coach in the league," I've heard more than once.''

The Bears injected a little youth into the line with third-round pick Jarron Gilbert and fourth-round selection Henry Melton, but otherwise they're hoping to rediscover their swagger of 2005 and 2006 with virtually the same personnel. Some have questioned the ability of Marinelli to come in, wave a magic wand and make it happen. Bowen and other league insiders believe Marinelli can make it happen, and everyone knows the hard work Marinelli has ahead for the linemen. We've written it before, we'll write it again, pay attention to the individual D-line drills in training camp.

*** It seems that the last month or so has been one projection followed by one list followed by another projection. Well, here's another list ... this time ESPN's John Clayton puts together the top five general manager-coach combinations in the NFL. He ranks Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith fourth.

"Lovie Smith-Jerry Angelo, Chicago Bears: This one might surprise some because Angelo isn't a vocal general manager and the Bears, as a team, usually slip under the radar. They stay in contention most years in the NFC North, and made it to the Super Bowl in 2006. Angelo made one of the biggest moves of the offseason, acquiring quarterback Jay Cutler, who could take the Bears to 11 wins. In the meantime, Smith has taken over the play-calling duties on defense and expects an improved, more aggressive unit this fall."


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It's wide receiver fever today. Catch it! Let's get right to the mailbag.

Q: Huge Bears fan from New Zealand. Probably the only one in New Zealand so your columns are much appreciated. My question is of course about the wide receiver position. I think the Bears will do fine with what they have but why not improve? What about Matt Jones? The Bears don't have great height at the position and it is known that the coaches love speed. Matt Jones is a monster and ran a 4.37 at his combine in 2005 (even though he might not play as quick in pads). Getting named the beast at the combine shows he has talent. No problem with his hands and he had 65 receptions last year while missing four games. He has experience and is a No. 1 receiver. He would give Devin Hester and the other young receivers time to develop. Also he is 26 and has to be the best option apart from Anquan Boldin. However, I know the Bears probably say they equally value a clean record which is maybe why they haven't touched him. But he has been cleared of any game suspensions and only a fine by the NFL. Will this lead to more interest? I think improving is more important than getting someone with some bad history. A 26-year-old, 6-6 receiver with experience. Why not?

Michael S., New Zealand

A: While Jones has recently been in Arkansas working through a court-mandated program, he's spent much of the offseason working out at the IMG facility in Florida. Jones is said to be in terrific shape and the hope is that he will have multiple offers to choose between. Obviously, the Bears would be a team he'd probably be interested in joining when you consider the depth chart, Jay Cutler and, well, the depth chart. But the later it gets, the less chance there is the Bears get involved with Jones, who learned recently that the NFL will not be imposing any more sanctions against him. You make a good point that he might not play as fast as he timed several years ago. While he was very productive last season in Jacksonville, which has a run-oriented attack, Jones was a possession receiver. We pointed out the work done recently by our friend Eric Edholm over at Pro Football Weekly. He noted that of Jones' 166 career receptions, three have gone for more than 39 yards. However, few consider Jones to be a true No. 1 receiver. While we think Jones would provide an upgrade instantly for the Bears, the Bears believe rookie Juaquin Iglesias can be a productive possession receiver. Perhaps that is a role they have in mind for Earl Bennett as well. If they go outside for a receiver at this point, chances are greater it will be Burress. Unlike Jones, Burress has a whole tangle of issues to sort through, including court issues and then a likely suspension imposed by the league. Stay tuned.


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After discussing two remaining options at wide receiver on Wednesday night in Plaxico Burress and Matt Jones, let's take a final look back on the wide receiver corps of 2008 and its production.

Matt Forte
led all NFL running backs in receptions and Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen proved to be a solid combination in the passing game but the Bears struggled to get consistent production from their wideouts. The problem was more acute down the stretch when Kyle Orton was playing with an ankle injury. How much that factored in the lack of production by the wide receivers is anyone's guess. But five times over the final eight games the wide receivers combined for five receptions or less. What that means is the Bears were not having much success pushing the ball downfield and as offensive coordinator Ron Turner says, it's difficult to consistently mount 70- and 80-yard drives without big plays.

Week 10 Tennessee--5 receptions by wide receivers
Week 11 at Green Bay--4
Week 13 at Minnesota--5
Week 15 New Orleans--5
Week 16 Green Bay--3

Here is how the playing time broke down during the season followed by the statistics:

Rashied Davis 667 of 1,012 plays, 65.9 percent
Devin Hester 631 of 1,012 plays, 62.4 percent
Marty Booker 376 of 1,012 plays, 37.2 percent
Brandon Lloyd 376 of 1,012 plays, 37.2 percent
Earl Bennett 16 of 1,012 plays, 1.6 percent
Brandon Rideau 11 of 1,012 plays, 1.1 percent

Hester 51 catches, 665 yards, 5 TD
Davis 35 catches, 445 yards, 2 TD
Lloyd 26 catches, 364 yards, 2 TD
Booker 14 catches, 211 yards, 2 TD

Here we go with our final Four Down Territory edition of the week. With the draft rapidly approaching, we'll hit a Q&A Monday through Friday next week doing our best to answer all of the draft questions you might have. Let's get right to it.

Q: It seems like the Bears have had so-called easy schedules the last few years based on the opponents' winning percentage the previous year and the easiest of all 32 this year. I'm wondering how well the previous year's win percentage actually correlates with the next year's win percentage. In other words does the preseason strength of schedule actually tell us much about how tough the actual season ends up being?

Julie R., Michigan

A: That's a good question and in order to do our best answering it we've crunched a few numbers. We've also got a link here to a good story by ESPN's John Clayton earlier this week that touches on this very subject. Clayton points out that the first-place schedule has been a tough collar for the NFC South winner to wear each year. In five of the last seven seasons, the NFC South champion from the previous year has finished last. Certainly a tough schedule was not much of an obstacle for some very good teams in 2008. Pittsburgh (1st), Indianapolis (2nd), Baltimore (4th) and Minnesota (5th) all faced supposedly difficult scheduled this past season and all four clubs reached the postseason. We took a look at the strength of schedule for every playoff team the past four seasons. Here is what we found:

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We only knocked out three questions on Monday so we'll even it up with five today. Let's get right to it:

Q: One thing I really took away from the combine was the performance of Pat White. I know everyone was writing him off as a quarterback because of his size but this kid did everything right. He had excellent throws all day. He also ran a very fast 40 for a quarterback. How would he look in a Bears uniform if they could get him in the second or third round?

Tyler K., Tulono, Ill.

A: You were not the only one who was impressed by White's dazzling display Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. It was quite a show and it will be interesting to see how much momentum White generates moving forward. Remember, it just takes one team to fall in love with a player.

Here is what they said on nfldraftscout.com:

2/24/2009--West Virginia's Pat White is a fine athlete who worked out at the combine as a quarterback and was relaxed in doing so. White is such a talent that teams are discussing what to do with him and when he should be drafted. He could be a No. 3 quarterback with a chance to be a No. 2, but he also can run the Wildcat, play slot receiver and return punts and kicks. As one GM said, "I want him on my team, and now I just have to figure out where I have to take him." - Pat Kirwan, NFL.com

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The departure of Marty Booker got lost in the shuffle somewhat on Friday with the news offensive tackle John Tait is expected to retire with one year remaining on his contract.

Booker spent six of his 10 NFL seasons with the Bears and departs tied for third in franchise history for receptions, partially a testament to the franchise's inability to develop a quarterback. Booker is the only Bears wide receiver to be selected to the Pro Bowl since Dick Gordon in 1972. He went to the all-star game after the 2002 season when he made 97 catches for 1,189 yards with six touchdowns.

After one more year with the Bears, he was traded to Miami in the deal that landed defensive end Adewale Ogunleye. Booker never seemed to be a fit in Terry Shea's offense and you got the same feeling when he returned last year. Booker seldom got work with the first team in training camp and was virtually invisible in preseason, sparking questions about whether or not he was going to make the roster after signing a $3.5 million, two-year contract.

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A project that could have potentially been put off one more year is expected to be at the forefront for the Bears demanding immediate attention.

Veteran right tackle John Tait is seriously considering retirement with one year remaining on his contract according to two sources, and a third source close to the team called it a done deal although no official word came Friday when the club announced its first cuts, releasing three players including veteran wide receiver Marty Booker.

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Delayed by some of the first news the Bears have made in a while, here is our final Four Down Territory for the week.

Q: Perhaps the most controversial argument amongst Bears fans seems to have been Rex Grossman vs. Kyle Orton heading into 2008. There are plenty of Orton haters as well as those who seem to be glad to give Rex the boot. Many fans still clamor for Grossman, making claims that the Bears will live to regret letting him go. What's your position on this issue? Are there teams indicating an interest in Rex? Do you think releasing Rex will become another poor personnel decision by the Bears current regime?

Dave, Parts Unknown

A: First, we pledge this will be the final Grossman vs. Orton question we take, for a long while any way.

Marty Booker's return to the Bears was short-lived. It lasted one season. The veteran wide receiver was released Friday, one of the three players cut loose.

Booker leaves with 329 receptions as a Bear, tied for the third-most in franchise history. He is the only Bears wide receiver since 1972 to be selected to the Pro Bowl.

Perhaps Garrett Wolfe fell victim to the cold, he's not really sure, but with a pretty serious hamstring pull it doesn't matter now.

The Bears' leading special teams tackler will miss three to four weeks following his injury Sunday on the opening kickoffs, meaning the Bears will have to make the playoffs to see Wolfe in action again this season.

"I've had hamstring issues since I left college,'' said the third-round pick from 2007. "This is probably the third time I've had a hamstring problem. That makes it even more disappointing."

Wide receiver Marty Booker suffered a cracked rib in the 23-10 victory and coach Lovie Smith called him questionable for Thursday's game with New Orleans. Defensive tackle Tommie Harris was held out during the second half after tweaking his right hamstring. He left the stadium with ice on it.

Marty Booker struggled pulling his clothes on in the locker room after the game Sunday, and his worst fears have been realized by X-rays. A source close to the player revealed that Booker suffered a cracked rib when he was tackled by Jacksonville cornerback Brian Williams and linebacker Clint Ingram. The injury happened at the end of a 12-yard reception in the fourth quarter of the Bears' 23-10 victory.

Booker finished with three catches for 28 yards after missing two games with a bone bruise in his knee and going catchless through three games when he tried to play through the injury. The three receptions tied him with Curtis Conway for the third-most in franchise history with 329. He's 27 behind Johnny Morris in second place.

CHARLOTTE, N.C.--Veteran wide receiver Marty Booker was seldom used in preseason and that was the case again last Sunday in the opener at Indianapolis.

He got one catch to extend his Bears' record of consecutive games with a reception to 59, but was on the field for just seven snaps.

Wide receivers coach Darryl Drake expects that to change against Carolina, but there are no guarantees. One reason given for Booker's limited role against the Colts is all of a sudden he is being used at the Z, a new position for him in his return to the team. Mark Bradley had been working there a lot and with Bradley and rookie third-round draft pick Earl Bennett inactive in Week 1, someone needed to fill the role.

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