Drivin’ Deez Nuts: Forgetting Devin Hester

Special teams coach Dave Toub and head coach Lovie Smith discuss the Bears kick return situation. (Photo courtesy of chicagobears.com)

It was great to see Devin Hester back returning kickoffs for the Bears last Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.  His 68 yard return in the 3rd quarter set up a Robbie Gould field goal that gave the Bears a 20-13 lead that they didn’t relinquish.  Hester finished the day with 100 kick return yards and 47 punt return yards and was named NFC Special Team Player of the Week.  My question is, why the heck did the Bears stop using him on kickoffs in the first place?

Sunday marked only the third game in Hester’s last 26 that Bears special teams coach Dave Toub utilized him on kickoffs.  It is well documented that after Hester signed a new four year deal in 2008, he wanted to focus on being the Bears #1 receiver.  That sounds semi-reasonable.  However, we have seen that experiment fail over the last 2+ seasons and we have all wondered when the Bears would realize that.  Now, for the kicker of it all.  As reported on Yahoo, Toub explained the reasoning behind putting Hester back on kick returns:

“We weren’t saving (him) up.  It’s just a matter of how many touches he was getting on offense. Johnny (Knox), the game before didn’t really come off the field at all and we realized when Danieal (Manning) was getting all the reps on defense we had long drives and we had kickoffs and we had to go kickoff return and Danieal was out.  So, I just was, ‘Johnny.’  The next guy was Johnny.  So, we kept calling Johnny up and then at the end of the next week we realized, hey Johnny was playing every rep on offense and Devin was over there on the sideline.”

Are you freakin’ kidding me?  Toub just happened to notice that the best returner in history was just sitting on the sidelines, doing nothing during kick returns?  How do you forget that you have a guy like Hester available to you?  The guy has 4 kick return touchdowns, 2,397 kick return yards and you’ve already seen him return 2 punts for TDs this season.  And you just happen to remember that he is available for kick returns now?  I understand that Hester has been concentrating on learning how to be a receiver recently, but what’s a kickoff return or two a game going to hurt?  Toub went on to say:

“Here’s the best guy maybe in the history of the game and he is sitting on the sideline so we said we need to get him in the game the next week. That’s how it went and we just wanted to keep it on the low so they didn’t know and we brought it out for the Minnesota game.

He’s just as confident as ever. Devin has always been Devin. He had the two down years where he didn’t score a touchdown, but still he was very, very effective in everything that he did on punt returns and kick returns every time we used him.”

Well thank you for stating the obvious, Mr. Toub.  For one and half of those two years that he didn’t score a TD, he wasn’t even used on kickoffs.  Now the thing that disturbs me the most about this situation is that Mike Mulligan of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that if Lovie were to be fired, Toub would be a leading candidate to replace him.  I know Toub’s special teams units have been tops in the NFL in recent years, but for a guy to basically admit that he ‘forgot’ that he had Hester available for kick returns, I can’t see promoting him to head coach being a good idea.

I guess we can look on the bright side here and say ‘better late than never’.  We know Lovie wouldn’t have made the change on his own.  He’s always in his own little world and seems to spend most of his time staring at the scoreboard and shaking his head.  Well, at least Hester is back on kickoffs for the time being.  Let’s just  hope that Toub doesn’t forget that the Bears are playing on Thursday night and take Hester and his talents down to South Beach tonight to celebrate his return to kickoffs.  Ridiculous.

And that’s what’s Drivin’ Deez Nuts this week.

Topics: Chicago Bears, Dave Toub, Devin Hester, Kick Returns, NFC Special Teams Player Of The Week, Records, TDs, Vikings

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  • Doshi

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t virtually the entire blogosphere clamoring to get Hester OFF of Special Teams duty at the beginning of last year? Something about making him a true #1? I agree that his best spot is at PR/KR, but it was worth the experiment to see whether or not he could become the next Steve Smith, who was a special teams standout before he became the most dangerous WR in the NFL playing for a terrible team.

  • Halford

    Hester is and will always be a special teams player… I say the bears take him off the offense and just let him run every special team return that the bears get and utilize him that way… He will never be a #1 receiver and the Bears should be focusing on Knox, Bennet, and Aromashodu to take over the offensive receiving core with Hester at best at slot or out of the backfield on some offensive plays. Great article!

  • windy Cynic

    Don’t agree boys, if we could get Devin the ball in space on offense he would kill it. He couldn’t get too many touches and still work the return game.

    Reality is, both Manning and Knox are excellent return guys.

    Put Devin in the slot, one on one with safeties and occasionally linebackers and let him redefine “run after catch”. Expecting him to run precise routes downfield as a wide out isn’t taking advantage of his strengths. You can always shadow him deep with a safety and let the corner try to keep up because he’s not running routes, just flies.

    Good game tonight boys. We’ll see where we are, that’s for sure.

  • City

    Hey Deez! Great write-up!

    I agree that Toub is an idiot for not thinking about this earlier (say, the Seattle game), but I do want to add this: Hester hurt his hamstring at the Pro Bowl after his remarkable season a few years back. I believe that injury reduced his effectiveness for at least 1 season, which ruined his confidence. Kickoffs and especially Punt Returns is all about instinct and reflex. If you don’t have the confidence, you think too much, and you hesitate. Hesitate and you get killed. And that’s what was happening to Devin. It’s great to see him back to his confident self.

    But, I wouldn’t put him exclusively on special teams. He is always going to be a downfield threat, which opens lanes for everyone else (though I would like to see Cutler hit him long once in awhile).

  • windy Cynic

    Each line is holding up….. wow.