Should Bears rest starters if game is meaningless?

Should Bears rest starters if game is meaningless?
December 30, 2010, 4:58 pm
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Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010
10:53 AM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Hopped on The Danny Mac Show on WSCR-AM 670 as I do every Thursday but this morning it was Matt Abbatacola sitting in for Mac and Spiegs. Matt had some things on his Bears mind:

Should the Bears give starters this weekend off?

Matt was on board with a lot of his listeners who favor resting keystarters if the game in Green Bay is meaningless. I disagree.

The prime directive is to do whatever advances you toward being betterin the playoffs. You shouldnt play starters so people hit statisticalgoals (Matt Fortes 22 rushing yards for 1,000, Johnny Knoxs 40 receiving yards for 1,000). Thats idiotic.

You dont structure your lineup based on winning or losing in order toget another team into or out of the playoffs. Your team is the only onethat matters, not whether you think you match up better against GreenBay, New York or anyone else.

And you dont rest players just to preserve them. If someone like Pisa Tinoisamoahas a knee that would benefit significantly from a game off, sit him.But no one is 100-percent healthy this time of year so the only fullweekends off should go to the true health risks.

That said, I dont have a problem with treating this like a thirdpreseason game where your starters play into the second half at least.But Cutler, his receivers, the offensive line and pretty much theentire (suddenly vulnerable) defense dont need two full weeks andSundays without games. That gets no one ready for anything.

Going into this season, did I expect this Bears team to be what and where they are?

As I said (and was harangued for) before the year, I thought this team would be 10-6 or better. The reasons lay in the number of elite players (Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher) on defense, plus very strong second-tier guys in Charles Tillman, Chris Harris and others. Put another way, I did not see how this team was going to be bad. I wasnt sure how good they would be but Ive covered bad over the years and this didnt smell like bad.

Besides, the Bears went 7-9 with Jay Cutler being terrible for the most part. If he had been simply bad, the Bears are 8-8 or better. And with Mike Martz coming in, the prospects of Cutler and the offense being exponentially better were very good. How Martzs offense played out has been a little different from even what it was in the first quarter of the season, but if the had not been improvement, that wouldve been the surprise, not that the offense turned out to be overall pretty decent, apart from statistical specifics.

Speaking of valued players, how much has Matt Forte advanced in 2010?

Forte has gone from a solid, serviceable back in years 1 and 2 (his 3.9-yard average as a rookie wasnt special) to flirting with elite status. Not as a pure runner, not as a pure receiver, but as an all-around back, and that is what the Chicago offense craves even more than any specialist.

Forte in 2011 is heading into the final year of his rookie contract and a surprise (and big mistake) will be if the Bears don't get an extension done with him prior to next training camp. Forte ranks ahead of Lovie Smith on the need-to-extend list, if only because Smiths value already has been set in the upper echelon of his job grade. Forte will cost the Bears proportionately far more if he gets anywhere close to free agency and bidding from teams like Green Bay that may have uncertain current situations at running back and could have a franchise answer in Forte, whose arrow is pointing decidedly up.

How much credit does Mike Martz deserve for his flexibility with the in-season adjustments he made in his offense?

Martz deserves tremendous credit for redirecting himself and his offense once it was apparent that the personnel was not yet at the point of being able to cash the checks he was asking them to cover.

All of the credit doesnt go to Martz, however. The change directive marks one of Lovie Smiths coaching milestones, with support from Jerry Angelo and others on the staff. If there was a surprise it was that Smith did not dictate major changes sooner than the off week but maybe it just took those three losses in four games to establish definitively what wasnt going to work.

All in all, a good visit. I usually only see Matt during training camp so it was good to check in with him. Well do it again next week after Packers Week has played out.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.