When Crank That (Soldier Boy) plays throughout Soldier Field, Chicago Bears fans know that Devin Hester is about to return a kickoff or punt. Normally, it is a moment that everyone in attendance anticipates. As the say goes, I wouldn’t buy Hester anything for Christmas because he’ll probably return it. That magic just isn’t there so far this year.
In last Monday Night’s game against the Detroit Lions, Hester seemed lost on punt returns. Hester was replaced in the punt return game by both Earl Bennett and Eric Weems. Hester did return to his normal role and that’s when he fair caught a returnable punt. He also didn’t field two punts that ended up rolling for extra yards. Let’s just say the reaction of his coaches was not warm and fuzzy.
Hester has been featured more in the offense this year. He has made some solid plays at receiver. This seems to be a pattern with the former Miami Hurricane. When he contributes more on offense his returns get worse. When he takes a lesser role on offense he becomes a better returner. It is a vicious cycle.
There’s no doubting Hester’s natural gifts. The Bears have been trying to find ways of incorporating him on offense. And while he does make plays every so often, he just never seems to fully grasp the role. It puts the coaches in a Catch-22. On the one hand, you don’t want to totally take him away from the offense. But on the other hand, his biggest value comes in the return game. When he’s at his best as a return man, the Bears end up with incredible field position. As we saw last Monday night, his lack of judgment cost the Bears better field position.
This leads to my next thought. Will Hester be with the Bears next season? He’s owed a lot of money by the team, and considering Jay Cutler‘s contract status is up-in-the-air, is this Hester’s last season for the Bears due to his rather large salary? While Hester certainly has been a strong player for the Bears, he needs to earn his money in the return game. If he’s going to be a below-average return man and occasional contributor on offense, maybe it is time to go. I would hate to see it, because he is a good football player. But his money may be spent elsewhere.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Hit me up on Twitter @ChicagoBearJew and Hashtag #RML with your thoughts.