CTL: Does Hester need a fresh start?
After the firing of Lovie Smith last month, few players were as vocal with their unhappiness more than Devin Hester, who was right then at the point of being uncertain he wanted to continue in the NFL.
Some of that unhappiness is still evident as Hester told the Chicago Tribune’s Vaughn McClure that a new start elsewhere in the NFL might be the best thing.
Hester is signed through the end of this season. But he didn’t rule out requesting a trade at age 30, and there was no talking about any “Hester package” or other gambit to get him the ball. He’s open to playing strictly as a returner at this point.
Detractors would suggest that’s all he’s been the past few years anyway. But many critics who fault the Smith staff for working Hester into the offense as a receiver have short memories and flawed information.
Hester’s 23 receptions put him fifth on the Bears, not too far out of line with what No. 5 receivers do. Randy Moss played one more game than Hester and had 28 for San Francisco. Jacoby Jones caught 30 for Baltimore. Hester’s 23 would have been sixth for Atlanta but the Falcons threw the ball 615 times vs. the Bears’ 485.
Ironically perhaps, Hester’s total is the lowest for a “5” for the Bears since 2005.
“Devin Hester, WR” – who’s call?
Trying to fit Hester in at wide receiver wasn’t somehow shoved down his throat. Quite the opposite: It was Hester’s idea in the first place.
When Hester and the Bears worked out a contract extension in 2008, the sticking point was that Hester wanted to play wide receiver and be paid like one, or a holdout was possible during training camp. He was still on his rookie (2006) deal but the Bears weren’t willing to pay him wideout money under a new contract based on just 20 catches in 2007.
What was worked out was a deal by which Hester could in fact earn No. 1-receiver money if he played like one. The Bears structured the contract such that Hester could escalate the last two years’ salaries of the deal to $10 million a year if he reached certain targets.
He didn’t and his production went from 57 catches in 2009 to 40, 26 and finally 23. Hester didn’t perform like a No. 1 and wasn’t paid like one. That’s called a fair deal for both sides.
What was cause? And what was effect?
Hester told CSNChicago.com last season that he never thought about being the so-called No. 1 receiver, just being the best Devin Hester he could manage.
Hester also said in the Tribune story that he’d gotten frustrated over the past couple years and less involved mentally. He is not the only one; another receiver told CSNChicago.com’s Kip Lewis last season that it was indeed difficult to keep running max-effort routes game after game when you knew the ball was pretty much going to somewhere else.
But was Jay Cutler throwing so many balls to Brandon Marshall because Marshall was the only one he truly “trusted?” Probably. And at some point that becomes almost self-fulfilling, if other receivers (like Hester) really aren’t open or running routes that aren’t putting them where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be there?
Hester likely won’t play much of a role in the Marc Trestman offense. That sounds like it will be fine with him.