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.