All Chicago Bears fans remember the Bears’ 2006 Super Bowl season and the route the Bears took to get there, which included one of the greatest comebacks ever, Week 6, Monday night against the Arizona Cardinals.
The undefeated Bears trailed the 1-5 Cardinals by 20 points at halftime, setting the stage for a comeback for the ages. The Bears came back to win 24-23, prompting Cardinals head coach Dennis Green to give his infamous postgame “they are who we thought they were” rant.
That night, a star was born. In the national-spotlight, rookie second-round pick Devin Hester capped off the comeback with a fourth quarter 83-yard punt return touchdown to give the Bears the lead that they never relinquished.
This is one of many memories Bears fans will always have of arguably the best return man in NFL history. Other memories include Hester’s opening kickoff return against the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI and his 109-yard missed field goal return against the New York Giants in 2008.
Hester is tied with Hall-of-Famer Deion Sanders for most career return touchdowns with 19 and is on the verge of owning that record alone with his next return score; unfortunately it may not happen in a Bears uniform.
Hester is set to become an unrestricted free agent Mar. 11 and it is unlikely that the Bears will re-sign him. Hester is one of the most popular Bears of all time, but with players to re-sign such as Charles Tillman and free-agents to pursue to rebuild their horrendous defense from a year ago, Hester just might not be at the top of the Bears “to-do” list.
And let’s face it; Hester is not as key of a piece to the Bears as people might imagine. Hester led the NFL in kickoff-return yardage last season with 1,442 yards, but that number can be misleading. The Bears’ defense allowed an abysmal 29.9 points per game last season and allowed 394.6 yards per game, third-worst in the NFL.
What that means is a lot of touchdowns for the other team and a lot of chances for Hester to touch the ball on kickoffs. Hester returned 52 kicks last season, 11 more than any other kickoff returner in the NFL, and he rarely gets a chance to return punts because punters punt away from him to avoid him possibly working his magic.
With all of that being said, is Hester worth re-signing when there are other needs the Bears must fill? I don’t think the Bears believe so. There is no Bears fan on the planet who wants to see Devin Hester in another uniform, but Bears fans must live with the harsh reality that it may happen.