While it’s been an accepted reality for a while now, things became somewhat official today.
Devin Hester’s days as a Chicago Bear are over.
NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweeted this on Tuesday.
Not bringing Hester back is the obvious move for the Bears, and it is a move that makes total sense, but there’s still a feeling of sadness about the entire thing.
Hester’s star burned out quickly in Chicago. In his first two seasons he returned 13 kicks or punts for touchdowns, including one to open the Super Bowl. It was insane. Every single time he touched the ball you expected something spectacular to happen, and you also thought the coach of the team kicking to him should be fired.
Have you not seen this guy? Why the hell are you actually kicking to him?
The final six seasons of Hester in Chicago weren’t nearly as exciting. Yes, any time he lined up to return a kick or a punt there was an electricity in the air. We’d all seen what he was capable of doing, and there was always a part of you hoping he would catch that lightning in a bottle one more time. And he did, occasionally. He would score “only” seven more touchdowns on returns, which was still pretty damned good, but never quite good enough.
There was an odd shift in the way Hester was perceived in this city. In those first two seasons he was a hero, but things quickly changed, and the media in particular shifted its narrative.
But none of this was Hester’s fault. It was the Bears and Jerry Angelo.
It was the Bears that handed Hester a four-year extension worth at least $30 million (I actually can’t find an exact number anywhere, but I’ve seen reports from $30 to $40) and suddenly a player that was underpaid as a returner was extremely overpaid as a receiver.
The Bears tried to force the idea of Hester being a No. 1 receiver down our throats, convincing themselves it was possible along the way, but it wasn’t. In the first two years of the deal Hester would catch 97 passes for 1,232 yards and seven touchdowns, which was the kind of production he would need in one season to be worth the money. He’d never come close to matching that production as a receiver in the years that followed.
Making matters worse, trying to become a receiver affected Hester’s ability as a returner. Hester would go the entire 2008 and 2009 seasons without a return touchdown, finally breaking a 34-game stretch without one against the Packers in 2010 with a 62-yard punt return.
He would become a dangerous returner yet again, though he would never be able to live up to the money the Bears had given him. Unfairly or not, that contract and his cap hit were always held against him.
But through it all, as a football player, Devin Hester was one of those players that got your attention every time he even threatened to touch the football. After the Bears gave up a touchdown you were afraid to change the channel during the commercial because you knew that Hester was lining up to return the kickoff. You couldn’t risk missing it.
And now we’ll never see it again. At least, not in a Bears uniform. Devin Hester was one of, if not the most exciting player I’ve ever seen in my lifetime as a Bears fan. I’ll miss seeing him in a Bears uniform, and I wish him luck in the future.
But when he plays the Bears I hope Marc Trestman is smart enough not to kick to him.
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