Mullin: What were you thinking, Matt Forte?


Mullin: What were you thinking, Matt Forte?

Monday, Dec. 27, 2010
6:59 PM

By John Mullin

The Bears running back is a Tulane guy, good school, bright guy.

So why would he say the kind of thing he did Monday? And in front of cameras, recorders and reporters??

Matt Forte is 22 yards short of 1,000 for the season, which would push him past that standard for the second time in his three NFL seasons. And he currently is averaging 4.4 yards per carry, which arguably places him in even more rarified air among NFL running backs.

For someone who had 929 last season with injuries hampering him all year, that is truly special.

And Forte knows what how special it will be for his Big Brothers: the offensive line.

It would mean a lot, probably just as much as it means for me to get 1,000 yards, Forte said. Just to hit that benchmark for those guys, because everybody wants to either run for 1,000 or block for a 1,000-plus yard rusher and things like that. Its very important for me to get that, especially for those guys.

Devin Hester is buying his return boys exquisite watches in appreciation of what theyve done to help him achieve his NFL return record. So I asked Forte if hes buying his Big Brothers cars, watches, things like that.

Yeah, Forte said, smiling, all that stuff.

Well, alrighty then for Roberto Garza, Olin Kreutz, Frank Omiyale, JMarcus Webb and Chris Williams, your second Christmas is exactly 22 yards away. You heard him say it.

But for a group that was maligned more than any other all season, the vindication is in the record as well as the records.

They werent ready to declare Sunday as their best game of the season for the simple reason that for a professional athlete, your best game is your next one.

But it felt that way, Omiyale said. We still had some mistakes here and there but I love how we stick together through thick and thin and keep fighting until the clock runs out.

The development and improvement shouldnt be all that surprising. One of the reasons I felt that the 2010 offensive line wouldnt be the disaster it was being portrayed as was the near-exponential improvement that happened when the line finally got together in 2009.

Omiyale and Williams have reversed positions since then. But that five-game stretch produced the best rushing stretch of the season, with more than 100 rushing yards in four of the five games and an average of 111 yards per game. The only real difference from the close of 2009 and now is Webb at right tackle instead of Kevin Shaffer, now the swing tackle and short-yardage heavy.

Starting with the Buffalo game, when Garza came back at right guard from knee surgery, the results have been virtually on par with the closing kick of 2009: eight games, 886 yards - just under 111 yards per game.

The offensive line was blamed for so much that was going wrong early this season. For so much of what's gone right since then, seems only fair that they get credit for that as well.

Credit, and those cars and watches from Forte...

John "Moon" Mullin is'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.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will Cam Meredith return to the Bears?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will Cam Meredith return to the Bears?

Hub Arkush (Pro Football Weekly/670 The Score), Mark Grote (670 The Score) and Mark Carman (WGN Radio) join Luke Stuckmeyer on the panel. Quenton Nelson works out at Notre Dame’s pro day. If he’s still on the board at 8, should the Bears take him? Plus the panel talks about the Cubs outfield heading into 2018 and if it’s time to shut down both Jonathan Toews and Lauri Markkanen.

Could Quenton Nelson increase his value by playing tackle?

USA Today

Could Quenton Nelson increase his value by playing tackle?

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Quenton Nelson hasn’t met with the Bears yet during this pre-draft process, and doesn’t have a local visit scheduled with them. But maybe that’s not too surprising.

Harry Hiestand has better intel on him than anyone else after coaching him for the past four years at Notre Dame, after all. 

“Coach Hiestand, he’s known me since I was an immature freshman that wasn’t good at football, until now being a lot more mature and responsible and doing the right thing and a good football player,” Nelson said. “He knows everything about me.”

Could part of that intel provided by Hiestand be that Nelson has the ability to eventually play tackle?

Nelson might be the closest to a “sure thing” prospect in this year’s draft, with his reams of dominant film and off-the-charts work ethic projecting him as an All-Pro for years to come. But that he plays guard is a stumbling block, given interior positions generally don’t hold as much value as tackles in the NFL.

So here’s a potential scenario for the Bears: They draft Nelson at No. 8 — which is still "high" for a guard — and plug him at left guard in 2018. They then, under the careful watch of Hiestand, slide him to tackle in 2019. 

“I’m pretty convinced that Q could do whatever he sets his mind to,” Mike McGlinchey, a first-round tackle in his own right who's Nelson’s ex-Irish teammate and workout buddy, said. “If that’s what teams want him to play, I’m sure he’ll take that head on and perform to the best of his ability.” 

Nelson, to his credit, is confident he could make the switch to tackle (he was recruited by Hiestand as a tackle, and began his college career backing up Zack Martin at tackle). He said the only team that’s asked him about it so far is the Cincinnati Bengals, though it’s unlikely he’ll still be on the board when they pick at No. 21. 

But maybe the thought of guards being significantly less valuable than tackles is slowly becoming antiquated in today’s NFL. Four of the top 10 highest paid offensive linemen, by total contract value, are interior linemen. Three of the top 10 offensive linemen with the most guaranteed money are guards, led by Andrew Norwell, who inked a five-year, $66.5 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this month with $30 million guaranteed at signing. Only one offensive lineman — Nate Solder, who just signed with the New York Giants — is guaranteed more money. 

Following the money, if teams are willing to splash down loads of cash for the best guards in the league, a team may be willing to spend a top-10 pick on a guard who could immediately be among the best at his position in the NFL. Or the calculation for whatever team drafts him may be this: Would you rather have him as a perennial All-Pro guard or "merely" a solid-to-good tackle? 

Regardless of where he ends up playing, though, Nelson is one of those supremely-talented players who takes the right approach to his craft — in other words, one of those guys you just want to get in your building. And while Nelson said he’d love to play for his hometown New York Giants — who could be interested in him with the No. 2 pick — he said getting to link back up with Hiestand would be an incredible opportunity, too. 

“That would be amazing to play for him,” Nelson said. “He’s the one that made me into the player I am today. I wouldn’t be here without him or be in any conversations in the draft without him, so it would mean a lot to play for him again.”