HAWL IN: When an NFL break up is done right

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Matt Forte during his final season with the Bears in 2015 against the Raiders at Soldier Field on October 4th.

CHICAGO – On Friday morning, he beat the team to the punch. But not by much.

This was Matt Forte’s post to Instagram around 9:30 AM. He revealed the news that many Bears fans were hoping not to hear but braced themselves for the last few months.

After eight years, No. 22 was through in Chicago. The 30-year old running back, in fact, would not be offered another contract.

Not long after, right around a half hour, the Bears released their own statement on the release of Forte. As it should, it mostly praised the incredible feats of the running back since the Bears drafted him in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft.

“Matt is one of the all-time great Bears and did an excellent job for us on and off the field last season,” said Bears General Manager Ryan Pace in a statement released through the team. “He was a tremendous teammate. We thank him for his professionalism and wish him the very best as he continues his career.”

It was a harsh move by the Bears and not the best way to end the Chicago career of the team’s second leading rusher and pass catcher.

But in the end, it was done the right way.

Think that is a harsh thing to say? Possibly. I was the one who wrote back in November following Jeremy Langford’s breakout game against the Rams that Forte shouldn’t be forgotten despite the rise of the rookie.

But in the end the way that both sides handled it was for the best: Directly.

This wasn’t dragged out until the free agent deadline where words could be traded on both sides and then likely have it led to a less that amicable break up. Pace and his staff made the decision not even a week after the Super Bowl, which is fair to Forte and deserving for the many years of faithful service he gave during a sometime tumultuous time with the franchise.

It doesn’t always happen this way. Sometimes this process can last all the way till early March leaving the franchise and the player in limbo as the inevitable fails to happen. I recall the Peyton Manning saga in early 2012 in Indianapolis when all signs pointed to the legendary quarterback’s release since the Colts were in a position to draft Andrew Luck.

Things got a bit heated between the quarterback and owner Jim Irsay as neither seemed willing to accept the inevitable and the process dragged out into mid-March.

That wasn’t going to happen this time. The writing was on the wall when Forte said there wan’t much to hope for when it came to returning late in the season and Pace didn’t make a commitment following the season.

Forte probably deserved a little more from a franchise which he did give his very best for eight season and did mentor two younger running backs that will now replace him in his final year. It could very well be a mistake to let the running back go who has shown good durability in his years in Chicago and did remain a threat even after turning 30 midseason.

But Forte missed three games this season with a knee injury-the most since 2011. Due in part to that his rushing yards (898) were the lowest in his career. NFL stats say that only 27 players since 1990 who started a season when 30 years or older have rushed for 1,000 yards.  Plus the Bears have a rookie in Jeremy Langford who has a low contract number for a couple of years and will make less than Forte had he returned.

These things aren’t easy. Maybe, and likely, Forte will go somewhere else and be an immediate success. But he wasn’t in the Bears plans beyond 2015. Pace and the front office had other ideas for the face of the franchise.

 

At least they let him know about it sooner than later. He deserved to have that process done right after he did so much the correct way in the Windy City.