From a building-toward-the-future standpoint, letting Matt Forte walk looks like the right move, at least on the surface.
From a winning-next-year standpoint, it looks like the wrong move.
And there’s the quandary.
If you’re rebuilding, which the Bears are, you absolutely get rid of a 30-year-old running back.
But Forte is a 30-year-old running back in name and number only. He has built a career on sleight of foot. He has made defenders miss and has avoided many of the big hits that have turned other running backs into old men well before their time. He is 30 going on 25.
I would have re-signed him. Jeremy Langford showed potential last season. But he’s not Forte, who leaves as one of the best running backs in Bears history. The veteran rarely did the wrong thing on the field, usually found the right hole and most of the time protected the football as if it were a newborn. To put that in the past tense is wrong. He still does all those things well.
But it’s hard to get outraged about this. The Bears hired general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox for decisions like this one. Very little has gone right for the team in the past five years or so, including personnel decisions. This is why the franchise made changes, and these are the two men in whom it put its trust. That’s not to say fans have to march like foot soldiers behind every personnel decision, but at least for now, Pace and Fox deserve the benefit of the doubt.
But that benefit of the doubt needs to translate into more victories in 2016. The Bears “improved” from 5-11 under Phil Emery and Marc Trestman to 6-10 under Pace and Fox. Time for a bigger leap next season. If they can do that without Matt Forte and his healthy salary, more power to them. If they can’t, it’ll be open season on their decision-making skills.