Breaking Historical News: Chicago Bears Wide Receivers Haven’t Been Great

Things got a little bit HEATED this weekend when John “Moon” Mullins said that there were “whispers” that Ryan Pace and the Chicago Bears were working on a deal to acquire Jarvis Landry and a third round pick in exchange for Jordan Howard and a first round pick swap. I was called an idiot. Others were called way worse. Moon Mullins was dragged through the internet mud.

People were mad online – and on a Saturday!

It’s clear that Bears fans are on edge and any decision that our GM may make in upcoming free agency or the draft is obviously going to be examined and debated for weeks to come.

And that’s fair.

While I wish I could walk a lot of it back (ultimate fence rider), my thoughts on this fake scenario are out there at this point and I’m not about to erase them. Yes, in the moment, I didn’t hate that fake deal. But now that I’ve sat back and thought about it more, that instant reaction says more about the Bears fan base than anything else.

I so desperately want the Bears to bring in a guy that has averaged 100 catches in his first four seasons in the NFL. A guy that has never missed a game and had nine total touchdowns just last season (six more than Adam Shaheen who led the Bears in that category). That I shrugged my shoulders at a deal that probably wasn’t the best for my favorite football team long term.

Fandom is a weird thing.

Even if the the Bears are having open talks with Miami, they’re in the drivers seat and there’s no way Pace gives up picks to have the right to sign a guy that is going to cost them a hefty amount of money. Pace knows that he has way too many holes to fill on this roster to do something stupid like that (despite what you may believe). With the Franchise Tag deadline hours away, Pace should be moving on from Landry (if he was even on him in the first place) in favor of guys like Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins who will potentially become free agents on March 12.

And I’m sure he’s ready to give his best Julius Pepper’s-like pitch to both of them next week.

Fingers crossed.

Now, with all of that said, there was one thing throughout this entire Fake News/wide receiver saga that I couldn’t shake: When was the last time a Bears receiver had something even remotely close to the four season stretch Jarvis Landry just put up?:

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64 games, 400 catches on 570 targets (70.1% catch percentage), 4,038 yards, 10.1 yards per catch and 22 touchdowns seems like it could be one of the greatest stretches for a Bears WR since I’ve been alive.

Hell, I’d venture to say that it IS the greatest four year stretch for a Bears wideout since I’ve been alive.

So, of course, I started digging.

I went all the way back to 1987 (the year before I was born) and looked at the stats from every single Bears player that recorded a catch in hopes that I was mis-remembering the past and that things aren’t as bad in my head as it was on the field.

It was as bad in my head as it was on the field.

Here’s the best of the best:

  • Former running back Neal Anderson was the first player that jumped off the board (and by “jumped of the board”, I mean that he was the only Bears player that put up any sort of offensive numbers post Super Bowl): 102 games played (1987-1993), 295 catches (they didn’t keep track of targets yet) for 2,683 yards, 8.8 yards per catch and 19 touchdowns.
  • Wendell Davis: 46 games, 154 catches (38.5 average) for 2,251 yards, 14.6 yards per catch and 11 touchdowns.
  • Curtis Conway had a legit four year stretch from 1995-1998 that did it’s best to compete despite a major injury in 1997: 54 games, 227 catches (56.75 average) on 416 targets (54.5 catch percentage), 3,295 yards, 14.8 yards per catch and 23 touchdowns.
  • Bobby Engram: 59 games (1996-1999), 230 catches (57.5 average) on 376 targets (61.1 catch percentage), 2,722 yards, 11.7 yards per catch and 17 touchdowns.
  • Marty Booker (love you forever Marty): 60 games (2000-2003), 296 catches (74 catches average) on 504 targets (58.7 catch percentage), 3,465 yards, 11.8 yards per catch and 20 touchdowns.
  • Matt Forte: 59 games (2011-2014), 272 catches (68 average) on 360 targets (75.5 catch percentage during that stretch), 2,232 yards, 8.25 yards per catch and nine touchdowns.
  • Alshon Jeffery: 53 games (2013-2016) 280 catches (70 average) on 481 targets (58.2 catch percentage during that stretch), 4,182 yards, 15 yards per catch and 23 touchdowns.

I went through nearly 30 years worth of Bears running backs, fullbacks, tight ends and wide receivers and Jarvis Landry’s first four years in the league would EASILY go down as probably the first or second best pass catcher in Bears history right next to the new Super Bowl winner.

This is a HUGE indictment of the former Bears GM’s and coaches for never valuing or developing the wide receiver position. Look at these names and the statistical seasons they put together:

bears 1bears 2

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times Desmond Clark or a fullback that I’ve never heard of were in the Top-3 pass catchers in a given season.

It was as tedious as it was absurd.

Out of 29 years of football, the Bears only have eight one thousand yard receiving efforts stemming from five guys total and half of those came in the last six seasons (Jeffery twice, Brandon Marshall twice, Conway twice, Booker once and Jeff Graham once).

Just for a reference point, do you know how many 1,000 yard rushers the Bears have had in that same amount of time? 17. Anderson (three times), Rashaan Salaam (once), Raymont Harris (once), James Allen (once), Anthony Thomas (twice), Thomas Jones (twice), Matt Forte (five times!) and Jordan Howard (twice).

Also – as another reference point – the freaking Browns, who missed multiple seasons after moving their damn franchise to Baltimore have just as many thousand yard receivers as the Bears do.

It’s no wonder why I was ready to do anything for Landry. Of course we freaked out and put up with B-Marsh. Damn if I’m not still a little pissed we let Alshon walk away for nothing. Bears fans finally got a taste of what an offense looks like with weapons that can actually catch the football and we liked it. We liked it a lot.

I know that the Bears need a lot of things to go right to launch them to the top of the NFC North once again, but I’m not sure there is anything more serious – especially with a young, talented quarterback finally on the roster and an offensive minded head coach – than identifying, drafting and developing their version of Antonio Brown, or Michael Thomas, or Jordy Nelson, or Jarvis Landry, or Julian Edelman that you can supplement with a free agent like Allen Robinson.

With Mitch Trubisky in tow, it’s time to eliminate the next ghost in the room and give the fanbase something better to look back on than Marty Booker and Curtis Conway.

 

 

 

 

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