Bears wide receiver Markus Wheaton smiles easily, speaks softly and never shows the frustration of a disappointing season. But he feels it.
“I’m upset. I’m angry. I’m frustrated. I’m all of that,” said Wheaton, who has three receptions for 51 yards in 10 games. “But I’m still a pro. Me coming in here throwing a fit or telling anybody I’m angry isn’t going to help the team.
“I think a lot of people see that I’m frustrated. But I want to win football games. So I’m going to do whatever I can to help whoever’s in there get the job done. Whether it’s helping at practice or in the locker room, helping in the film room, I’m going to do what I can to help this team win. I’m still a part of this team. With that frustration, I still have the responsibilities that I have. I can’t just throw them by the wayside.”
Unfortunately, nobody will remember the Markus Wheaton era for his professionalism. The 5-11, 189-pounder, signed to a two-year, $11 million contract that included $6 million guaranteed, is a free-agency miss that highlights general manager Ryan Pace’s difficulty in building an NFL-quality receiving corps.
Quarterback Mike Glennon was a bigger miss, but at least his failure opened the door for Mitch Trubisky. Cornerback Marcus Cooper didn’t live up to expectations, but his demise was hastened by the re-emergence of Kyle Fuller.
Wheaton was emblematic of so much that went wrong for the Bears this season, starting with Pace’s questionable judgment in free agency. He couldn’t stay healthy — he had an emergency appendectomy and broken finger in training camp and missed three games after suffering a groin injury in Week 5.
And when he was healthy, he couldn’t crack one of the most nondescript and least-proven wide receiver corps in the NFL. He has played 56 snaps in the last seven games.
What went wrong?
“That’s a hard one to answer,” coach John Fox said, “other than I think we were developing and getting guys accustomed — he did have three different incidents that kind of hurt that development.”
Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said Wheaton will “probably play a little bit more” Sunday against the Vikings. But Wheaton knows it likely will be his last game with the Bears.
“Looking at the contract I have, it’s not likely I’ll still be here. Just being realistic with myself,” said Wheaton, whose “dead cap” number drops to $750,000 next season. “So whether it’s here or somewhere else, I’m trying to get better and outdo what I’ve done in the past.”
After two difficult seasons, Wheaton deserves to be at the right place at the right time. But that still leaves Pace in a similar boat when it comes to building a wide receiver corps Trubisky can win with. He needs better luck with injuries and has to find a way to get better and outdo what he has done in the past.
Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash.