Saturday, January 10, 2015

Forte Not the Answer to Bears Woes

Matt Forte has been solid for the Bears and he also gives the critics a quick fix on Bears losses.  They believe the Bears ought to run Matt Forte more.  Sorry folks, I think we used Matt Forte plenty in 2014 and using Forte more is not the silver bullet to the Bears wins. In 2014, Matt Forte between his rushes and receptions handled the ball the second most of his career, 368. 

I though it might be instructive to look at Matt Forte's first seven seasons and roughly compare them with the Bears' number one legendary running back Walter Payton.  You'll see why I say compare "roughly" to Payton's. But I think this demonstrates that the Bears have made good use of Matt Forte. 


First Year

Forte has seven complete seasons with the Bears. In his first year 2008, he had 316 rushes for 1,238 yards and a 3.9 yard average. That same year, he had 63 receptions for 477 and a 7.6 yard average. Forte's total yards gained equaled 1,715.  Forte also scored 12 TDs for the Bears.

You can not compare a current player's statistics in which teams play 16 games against someone who played during the 14 game seasons. Walter Payton's first three years were played during 14-game seasons. The NFL did not start the 16-game season until 1978. Rather than try to “normalize” the statistics on the two players here, we just provide the raw data on them. There are many factors that also make actual year-to-year comparisons questionable. By just looking at the performances generally, fans may have a better understanding of the value of these two great running backs without having to make any judgments that span teams, offensive/defensive schemes, talent or lack of talent surrounding the players etc.

In addition to the number of games, it should also be noted there is one more huge difference that reflect in Payton's numbers. Fullback play was much more prevalent then. Roland Harper, the Bears fullback during Payton early years was used liberally and got 100 carries for 453 yards in Payton's first year. Harper would end his career with over 3,000 rushing and 1,000 receiving after 7 seasons.   Bears running back Mike Adamale also got 94 carries for 354 yards in Payton's first year. And then there was Matt Suhey, the second long time fullback with Payton.  When Shuey retired he had over 5,000 yards from scrimmage with over 3,000 rushing and 2,000 receiving.  By the same token, today we see a more liberal use of the running back as receiver. It might also be said that Forte's at 6'2'' and 214 lbs. is a more likely target for passes than Payton who was 5'10" and roughly 200 lbs.  Modern fans might also be interested in knowing that fullback's Harper and Shuey were not much bigger than Payton. 

Payton had 196 carries for 679 yards and a 3.5 yard average in 1975. In receiving, Payton had 33 catches for 213 yards and a 6.5 yard average. Total yards gained by Walter Payton in his first year equaled was 892. He scored 7 TDs.  He was just warming up.

Looking at these performances, you can see that both Payton and Forte had "game" and were following in the footsteps of the Bears great running back traditions. Payton would go on to break the mold over 13 seasons.

Second Year

In 2009, Forte's second year, he had 258 rushes for 929 yards and a 3.6 average. He had 57 receptions for 471 yards and an 8.3 average. His total yards for the season were 1,400. He scored 4 TDs.

Payton's numbers were building in his second year. In 1976, he had 311 carries for 1390 yards and a 4.5 average. His 15 receptions made 149 total yards, which gave him a 9.9 yard average. Total yards were 1539 for Payton that year. He scored 13 TDs. The Bears would hand the ball off to Payton in the red zone.  I am one of those fans who says that Forte is not a red zone kind of runner.  It could also be that Payton had a fullback and defenses would have two running backs to focus on.  Forte was already seeing a almost four times the passes of Payton. 


Third Year

In 2010, Forte rushed 237 times for 1,069 yards netting a 4.5 yard average. His 51 receptions gave him 547 yards and a 10.7 average. His total yards for the year were a hefty 1,616. He scored 9 TDs.

Payton was nothing short of phenomenal in 1977. He rushed 339 times for 1852 yards and a 5.5 average. He had 27 receptions for 269 yards and a 10 average. His total yards tallied an incredible 2121. He scored 16 TDs.  Payton continued to be the go-to guy in the red zone. 

Fourth Year

In 2011, Forte started 12 games and he rushed 203 times for 997 yards netting a 4.9  yard average.  His 52 receptions gave him 490 yards and a 9.4  average.  His total yards for the year were 1,487.  He scored 4 TDs. He suffered a knee sprain in early December against Kansas City.  Both Forte and Cutler missed the last several games and the Bears season tool a nose dive.

For 1978, the Bears played a 16 game season and Payton played in every game.  He rushed  333 times for  1395 yards and a  4.2 average. He had  50 receptions for 480 yards and a  9.6  average. His total yards tallied 1,875 . He scored  11 TDs. 

Fifth Year


In 2012, Forte started 15 games and he rushed 248 times for  1094 yards netting a  4.4 yard average.  His  44 receptions gave him 340 yards and a  7.7  average.  His total yards for the year were 1,434.  He scored 6 TDs. Forte suffered an ankle injure against the Packers on September 13 and missed the following game against the Rams.

For 1979, Payton rushed  369 times for 1610  yards and a  4.4 average. He had  31 receptions for 313 yards and a  10.1  average. His total yards tallied 1,923. He scored  16 TDs.

Sixth Year

In 2013, Forte started 16 games and he rushed 289 times for  1339 yards netting a  4.6 yard average.  His  74 receptions gave him 594 yards and a  8  average.  His total yards for the year were 1,933.  He scored 12 TDs.

For 1980, Payton rushed  317 times for 1460  yards and a  4.6 average. He had  46 receptions for 367 yards and a 8  average. His total yards tallied 1,827.   He scored  7 TDs.



Seventh Year

In 2014, Forte started 16 games and he rushed 266 times for  1038 yards netting a  3.9 yard average.  His 102 receptions,  the most ever by the running back gave him 888 yards that surpasses Walter  and a  7.9  average.  His total yards for the year were 1,848.  He scored 10 TDs. Forte set two records in 2014, he had 102 receptions

For 1982, Payton rushed  339  times for 1222  yards and a  3.6 average. He had  41 receptions for 379 yards and a 9.2  average. His total yards tallied 1,601.   He scored  8 TDs.

Payton's career continued for another 6 seasons.  Forte's may as well.  I think Forte has remained healthy and he is a valuable member of the Bears, but let's not think that he's going to do everything.  The Bears have had a good passing attack the past few seasons.  More on that in another post. 

See "The Day Dick Butkus Caught a Bobby Douglass Pass for the Win."


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