On the John
Originally completed January 16, 2007
The following are perfectly acceptable storylines that could have easily been focused upon following the Bears’ 27-24 overtime victory Sunday:
- Thomas Jones looking like a man On A Mission, dragging his teammates to the endzone twice and batting down a tipped ball to prevent an interception.
- Robbie Gould drilling two kicks that, considering his NFL experience, may have been his version of Vinitieri’s pair against the Raiders in the snow.
- The Bears beating the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs, a team that was one of only three NFL teams currently riding postseason streaks of four consecutive seasons or more, the other two being the AFC’s two remaining clubs.
- Rex Grossman playing a very strong game and leading our Bears—his Bears—to a postseason victory.
- Briggs, Peanut, Berrian, and Rashied Davis all having big games, and Ricky Manning Jr., Hunter, Tank, Ced Benson, and Israel Idonije all making big plays.
- The Bears advancing to the NFC title game for the first time in 18 years.
These are just some possibilities. There are others.
And yet we’ve been hammered with more negativity than I’ve cared to read, watch, or listen to. One gets a sense that this Bears team is, somehow, the most disappointing team in the postseason.
Of course, this is nothing new. The Bears have, apparently, been disappointing fans and critics all season long.
Well boo freakin’ hoo.
Apparently it’s not enough to win 13 games and your division, dominate on defense, produce a smothering and accurate and deadly special teams unit, and be the franchise’s second highest scoring team since the season expanded to 16 games in 1978. Nope. You have to be flawless. Without flaw. Without peer. In fact, you have to be perfect. Beyond perfect, even. 1985-perfect, if there is such a thing.
Well, that’s the thing. There isn’t. Not even the ’85 Bears were perfect…which, of course, is part of what made them so memorable. 15-1 isn’t perfect, nor is a quarterback who moons cameramen, nor is a coach who flips off opposing fans, nor is a defense that barks at the opposition. That team wasn’t perfect. They were unique. To duplicate them in personality is nearly impossible. To duplicate them in performance is to be one of the greatest teams of all-time.
OK, fine: the 2006 Bears have not been one of the greatest teams of all-time. They are not nearly as dominant, and certainly not as charismatic, as were the 1985 team. But name me a club since 1985 that has been? The closest thing we’ve gotten has been the ’92-’95 Cowboys, but no single season stands out ahead of any other.
I struggle to think of another team in any sport as successful as the 2006 Bears that has been driven into the ground by the national and local media quite so much. Have they really been as disappointing as many have made them out to be? Or is it simply unfair and unreasonable to compare this club over the past two and a half months to the uninjured, relatively untested team of the first two and a half months? Of course it is, just as it was unfair to draw comparisons to the ’85 team after this team’s 7-0 start.
So what are the Bears? Well, to quote a former head coach who will remain nameless, the Bears are who we thought they were. Good. Damn good. The best team in the NFC all season, and arguably the best in the NFL. On a defense stocked full of wonderful players, three of them stand out as being “super important”: Brian Urlacher, Mike Brown, and Tommie Harris. The Bears have lost two of those three guys and remained powerful. Their passing offense has been the best that it has been since 1999, yet this season it came under the guidance of one quarterback rather than three. And their rushing attack has improved all year: 98 yards a game in the season’s first four games, 110.5 in Quarter Two, 131.8 in Quarter Three, and 139.3 in Quarter Four. How disappointing.
Whatever happened to appreciating a team that Finds A Way To Win? Isn’t that what we always say about the great teams? Isn’t that what we say is the difference between 11-5 and 5-11? Winning instead of losing: isn’t that what matters most? I guess not. I guess what matters most are Super Bowl Shuffles and Punky QB’s and obliterating teams 31.6 to 9.9 as the Bears did over their first seven games.
The 2005 White Sox made a habit of playing close games and giving their fans exciting wins, and they were loved for it. When Rex and Urlacher and TJ and co. do the same, they are booed and poo-poo’d, their will and skill questioned.
Ah well. You can’t please everybody.
Yes, the Bears are who we thought they were: an excellent football team that needs one more win to get to the Super Bowl. If you want to crown their asses, then crown them. If not, I guess they’ll have to do it themselves.
Copyright 2007, jm silverstein