Forte unintentionally setting his deal parameters

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Forte unintentionally setting his deal parameters

Matt Forte said last week that contract talks with the Bears were ongoing, which is a major positive given that the two sides have until July 16 to agree on anything other than the one-year guaranteed 7.74 million of the franchise tag.

He declined to talk specifics of the talks or what hes seeking. But he inadvertently did just that, although not necessarily at the level hes thinking.

The problem for Forte is that as valuable and complete a back as he is, he is simply going uphill. No fault of his, just the reality.

Forte cited the deals LeSean McCoy received from the Philadelphia Eagles (five years, 45 million, 20.7 million guaranteed) and Arien Foster did with the Houston Texans (four years, 41 million, 20.5 million guaranteed).

The Bears have been using those deals as guideposts, but only to a point (they have leverage, the tag and Michael Bush). And while Forte is essentially and justifiably slotting himself in the player ranges of McCoy and Foster, he will have trouble getting the Bears to view him in the same 20 million-guaranteed range.

The reasons are, for the Bears purposes, pretty simple.

McCoy, 23, is three years younger than Forte and has put up 28 rushing touchdowns on 635 carries while averaging about the same number of pass receptions as Forte for his three NFL seasons and averaging 4.8 yards per carry.

McCoy and Foster average a touchdown about every 22.6 carries. Forte averages one every 48.3.

Foster is the same age as Forte but has scored 29 rushing touchdowns in 659 career carries to Fortes 21 on 1,014 carries. Foster has averaged 4.7 yards per carry with less wear than Forte (4.2).

Forte is spot-on in his observation that the running back position may be in a state of being devalued, but that he is not exactly in that narrow mold of just running back. He is very much a part of a passing offense.

I catch the ball coming out of the backfield, Forte said. If you say its a passing game, well, I catch the ball out of the backfield.

As does Foster, even a tad better than Forte. Foster has averaged nearly 60 catches in his two seasons as the Texans franchise back to Fortes 56.

By Fortes suggested standard, the Bears can rightly say that he is deserving of a top contract but not with the 20 million guaranteed money that his suggested peers received.

My sense is that a deal gets done when one or both sides move, meaning that Forte comes off the 20 million number andor the Bears come off their 14-15 million. That means a deal in the range of 17.5 million guaranteed on a package of four or five years.

The length of deal is significant, because it makes Fortes push for his max even more understandable. In all likelihood, this is Fortes one and last big deal. Hell be 30 or 31 when he is in the market for another one, and that is not where people talk guarantees anywhere close to what is on the table now.

Bad blood fueled Bears-Vikings playoff bout profiled in 'Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon'

Bad blood fueled Bears-Vikings playoff bout profiled in 'Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon'

From the high ground of hindsight, what unfolded in the Metrodome that day in 1995 was actually quite a big deal. But not for reasons that you could have really understood at the time watching the Bears stun the Minnesota Vikings 35-18 in the wild card round of the 1994 playoffs.

It was not so much the game alone. It was the overall context of the time for the Bears, before and after.

Though the 1995 season would get off to a 6-2 start for the Bears before their near-historic collapse, the Minnesota game would prove to be the high-water mark for the coaching tenure of Dave Wannstedt. This was the postseason, and the Bears looked to be going where then-president Mike McCaskey envisioned when he made the play to beat the New York Giants in securing Wannstedt, who was unquestionably the hot coaching prospect coming out of the Dallas Super Bowl pantheon after the 1992 season.

To fully grasp the situation, you need to understand the undercurrent of venom that had developed between the Bears and Vikings. Bears-Packers might have been the glitzy rivalry, but what had grown between the Bears and Vikings was true hostility, with little of the respect that the Bears and Packers had managed. The Vikings carried grudges for Pro Bowl slights going back almost to the Bears' Super Bowl win. One Bears defensive lineman remarked that his most hated opponent was Minnesota right tackle Tim Irwin, adding, "He's a guy that, if I ran over him with a car, I'd back up over him to make sure I got him." Dwayne Rudd's backpedaling taunt after an interception came a couple years later, but you get the idea.

What's easily forgotten looking back through the mists of time was the epic decision made by Wannstedt to make a quarterback change, from a quarterback he wanted in free agency to one he knew well from their time together at the University of Miami. That was every bit the turning point of the season and the real reason the playoff trip and win ever happened.

The Bears had been annihilated in their first game against the Vikings in the 1994 season — 42-14 — and something was really, really wrong, which become glaringly more evident just a few weeks later, even though the Bears were reaching a 4-2 mark under quarterback Erik Kramer, the centerpiece of an aggressive offseason foray into free agency. But the Bears then lost — badly — to the Lions and Packers, with Kramer throwing three interceptions against Detroit and two against Green Bay, the latter in only 10 pass attempts.

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I talked privately to Kramer after the Green Bay game, specifically about why it was that he was playing his absolute worst against Detroit, Green Bay and Minnesota, all teams with which he was intimately familiar. My thought: You know those defenses and where their people are going to be.

Kramer shook his head: "The 'other guys' I know. It's my own guys. I don't know where they're supposed to be."

It wasn't a comment on his receivers whatsoever. It was Kramer admitting bluntly that he was not getting the West Coast scheme of coordinator Ron Turner and its timing element.

Wannstedt knew it wasn't working and made the change to Steve Walsh, who'd been the Hurricanes' quarterback under Jimmy Johnson when Wannstedt was the defensive coordinator.

That was the tipping point, and Walsh and Wannstedt are among the principals of "Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon," airing on Monday at 8 p.m. on CSN.

Anyone with any time spent in or around the NFL knows that beating a team three times in a season is incredibly difficult. The Bears had been blown out in the first Minnesota game but had pushed the Vikings to overtime in the second and would have won had Kevin Butler not missed a 40-yard field goal try.

The playoff meeting was No. 3, and after the Vikings put up a field goal in the first quarter, the Bears scored with a Lewis Tillman touchdown in the second and just pulled steadily away from the winner of the only NFL division that produced four teams with winning records.

From there it would be another decade-plus — 2006 season — before the Bears would win a playoff game.

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

In doing some post-season wrapping up of my Nerdy NFL Notebook as we begin turning the page to the 2017 season, part of it involves compiling where each team finished in big-picture team offensive and defensive categories: overall ranking (total yards), as well as team rushing and passing ranks on both sides of the ball.

So if the Bears wound up ranked 15th overall in total yards gained and allowed, they should've finished…oh, 8-8, right? It adds to the deception of some of the deeper issues that focus on a lack of playmakers, which tied into their inability to make plays when it matters most. In John Fox's 9-23 start, 18 of those games have been decided by six points or less. They've won just six of those games. 

Offensively, the Bears ranked higher in total offense than five playoff teams: Kansas City (20), Detroit (21), Miami (24), New York Giants (25) and Houston (29). They wound up 17th in rushing offense, better than four teams who advanced: Seattle (25), Green Bay (26), New York Giants (29) and Detroit (30). And their 14th-ranked passing offense ranked better than the Giants (17), Kansas City (19), Dallas (23), Miami (26), Houston (29).

On the other side of the ball, they'd be even better off before allowing 109 points over the final three losses. Their total defense ranked better than Detroit (18), Green Bay (22), Kansas City (24), Atlanta (25), Oakland (26) and Miami (29). After being gashed for 558 rushing yards the last three games, they fell to 27th in the NFL against the run (better than only 30th-ranked Miami). But the seventh-ranked pass defense, despite collecting a measly eight interceptions (among only 11 turnovers), was better than nine playoff teams: Miami (15), Pittsburgh (16), Kansas City (18), Detroit (19), the Giants (23), Oakland (24), Dallas (26), Atlanta (28) and Green Bay (31).

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What do all the hollow numbers indicate? A lack of complementary, opportunistic football, playmakers on both sides of the ball, a minus-20 turnover ratio, and a lack of quality and continuity at the quarterback position — to name a few. All of those playoff teams have more impact players (or kept more of their impact players healthy) than the Bears in 2016.

While some of the numbers aren't that bad to look at, and some even raise an eyebrow, there's still a deep climb from the most significant numbers: 3-13.