With the 44th pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears select Matt Forte, running back, Tulane University.
Do you remember that?
That was eight years ago this April. But times they are-a-changing now that the second-longest tenured member of the Chicago Bears (only kicker Robbie Gould is longer) announced Friday morning that he and the Bears are officially parting ways.
Forte’s announcement came via Instagram:
Despite my wishes, my days as a member of the Chicago Bears have sadly come to an end. I was informed earlier this week from the GM that they will not be attempting to re-sign me in free agency. I will remain forever grateful for my time spent in Chicago and being able to play for an organization with such a rich history. My only regret is not being able to win a Lombardi trophy for the best fans in all of sports. I’m excited about the next chapter of my NFL career. But, Chicago will always be home. God Bless and Bear Down!
The Bears later sent out a formal release via GM Ryan Pace:
— Zach Zaidman (@ZachZaidman) February 12, 2016
This is an awkward time for Bears’ fans. The team is amidst a slump that came both unexpectedly and unacceptably. They’re a team that was supposed to be a Super Bowl contender less than two short years ago.
Now, they find themselves picking in the top 11 of the NFL draft for the second straight year. Now that’s not all on Matt Forte, if at all.
But while Forte was a rock and overall fan favorite his time with the Chicago Bears is largely undefined. What exactly will you remember about it?
I’ll remember the two Pro Bowl appearances. I’ll remember the 8,602 yards and the fact that he’ll end his time as the Bears’ second leading rusher. But while Forte was the most consistent member of the Chicago Bears for eight years the fact that the Bears finished 8-8 or worse five of those seasons make it much more difficult to remember No. 22 for what he was.
And that was an unsung star.
As all good things must come to an end, this move makes the Bears’ big picture moving forward that much more clear.
2016 will be a developmental year. GM Ryan Pace and the franchise clearly do not see themselves as in a position to win now, otherwise a short-term cap friendly deal for Forte would have been more than achievable.
After all, Forte was never the player that demanded the ball and pouted when he didn’t get it. A reduced role would have made sense.
But like Phil Emery did with Brian Urlacher, Ryan Pace clearly sees the need for a clean break with a different Bears’ fan favorite.
Matt Forte will land on his feet. I truly believe the running back has a lot of tread left on those tires despite having the more touches than anyone in the league since he came into it.
However, landing elsewhere is going to be an unfortunate reality for both Forte and his fans.