Bears’ Matt Forte: Big money, big bust?
After losing four of their last five games the Chicago Bears find themselves at 8-5 and barely clinging on to playoff hopes. What began as the most promising season in years for the Windy City has quickly taken a slide; but why?
A big part of the Bears preseason hype stemmed from the re-signing of running back Matt Forte. Forte had been a workhorse in the Bears offense over the course of his first four years in the NFL. Coming in to the 2012 season Forte had led the Bears in both rushing yards and receptions each of the two previous years. It was a trend that eventually labeled No. 22 as the Bears only legitimate offensive threat and as the team’s singular weapon, Forte more than deserved a contract extension. The Bears signed Forte to a four-year $32 million deal with around 17 million guaranteed. Was it a mistake?
Since signing his new contract Matt Forte hasn’t been the same. Doing his best Houdini impersonation, Forte has vanished in midair. On the season Forte has 834 yards, three touchdowns and is averaging 4.3 yards per carry. Statistically Forte is having a decent season as the Bears have the 10th best rushing attack in the NFL. The problem is that not only are Forte’s numbers down from a season ago but his docile play has lacked in-game impact. He has been a non-factor in the Bears eight wins.
Last season Forte had 997 yards rushing with a 4.9 yard per carry average over the course of his 12 game season that ended with an injury. This season, with the same number of games played, Forte is almost 150 yards behind his 2011 pace. Some would blame first year offensive coordinator, Mike Tice and his offense, for Forte’s drop off in production but as I wrote before the season, Forte began to slow prior to his 2011 campaign prematurely ending. His decline in productivity was alarming and the likely reason behind the slow offseason contract negotiations.
So is Matt Forte a bust based on what the Bears paid him? Looking only at the 2012 season it’s hard to determine. Forte is currently 18th in the NFL in rushing behind the likes of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Ahmad Bradshaw; two serviceable backs making significantly less money. To call Forte a bust at this point would be premature. With three years left on his contract extension Forte will have opportunities to redeem himself. Let’s hope he does.
Follow Aaron on Twitter @Da_Bear_Truth.