The Lovie Smith era has been a roller coaster of emotions for Chicago Bears fans. It seems like every other year he is on the hot seat, but keeps pulling out something that allows him keep his job. I’ve decided to scour the history books and dig deep into my memory to see which Bears have succeeded under the turbulent reign of Lovie Dovie. This week, I’m going to take a look at the “best” offensive seasons under a defensive-minded head coach. I use the term “best” lightly.
Since 2004, we have gone from Craig Krenzel to Rex Grossman to Jay Cutler at QB, from David Terrell to Bernard Berrian to Brandon Marshall at WR and from Anthony Thomas to Cedric Benson to Matt Forte at RB. It hasn’t always been pretty, but a few guys have made Lovie Smith look fairly competent coaching an offense. However, under Lovie, we have only seen one offensive player (excluding offensive linemen) make the Pro Bowl (Matt Forte in 2011), but, oddly enough, it didn’t even make my list. I welcome any disagreements in the comments section.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, I present to you…The Lovies…the Bears players who had the best single season offensive performances at each position since 2004.
Quarterback: Rex Grossman (2006) – As much as I hate to admit it, Sexy Rexy had the best season at QB since Lovie took over. (We’re not exactly dealing with Hall of Famers, or even Pro Bowlers for that matter, when we talk about Bears QBs.) Despite his roller coaster year, he played well enough to get the Bears to their only Super Bowl since 1985. He finished the season with a 13-3 record (Bears record for most QB wins in a season), 23 TDs, 20 interceptions and 3,193 passing yards. While he was super inconsistent (7 games with a QB rating over 100.0 and 5 games with a QB rating under 40.0), the good outweighed the bad in the end, and the Bears made it to Super Bowl XLI. His SB performance was poor but they wouldn’t have been there without him. (I expect much criticism for this, but winning ugly is still winning. Caleb Hanie couldn’t even do that last year.)
Honorable Mention: Jay Cutler (2010) – Took the Bears to the Conference Championship game, finishing the season with a 10-5 record, 23 TDs, 3,274 passing yards and an 86.3 passer rating (all the while getting sacked 52 times). Had he not gotten injured in the playoffs, this season would supersede Grossman. No matter what Twitter says, Cutler’s one tough dude.
Running Back: Matt Forte (2008) – On a team devoid of offense, the second round draft pick out of Tulane busted onto the NFL scene as a rookie with 1,238 rushing yards, 8 rushing TDs, 63 catches, 477 receiving yards and 4 receiving TDs. His 12 overall TDs were the most for a Bears running back since the Neal Anderson days of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s.
Honorable Mention: Thomas Jones (2005) – Rushed for 1,335 yards and 9 TDs. Only Walter Payton has had more rushing yards in a single season as a Bear.
Fullback: Jason McKie (2008) – We all know the Bears rarely use their fullbacks for anything other than blocking, but in this magical season McKie actually scored 3 TDs. He was also instrumental in blocking for Matt Forte’s most productive season (1,715 yards from scrimmage).
Honorable Mention: Jason McKie (any other year 2004-2009) – Your other choices are Brandon Manumaleuna, Bryan Johnson and Tyler Clutts. Man, do I miss Jason McKie…
Wide Receiver 1: Muhsin Muhammad (2006) – He finished the season with great numbers for a Lovie Smith coached wide receiver, 60 catches for 863 receiving yards and 5 TDs. He saved Grossman numerous times with big catches for first downs. Muhammad also scored the Bears lone offensive touchdown in the Super Bowl. (I expect this spot to be quickly eclipsed by Brandon Marshall in 2012.)
Wide Receiver 2: Johnny Knox (2010) – He was the most consistent deep threat that the Bears have had in the Lovie Smith era. This season he had 51 catches for 960 yards (most in a season during Lovie Smith era) and 5 TDs. His 18.8 yards per catch is the highest for a Bears player with 50+ catches since the great Mike Ditka averaged 19.2 in 1961.
Honorable Mention: Bernard Berrian (2007) – Dealing with a hodgepodge of QBs (Griese, Grossman, Orton), Berrian was able to haul in 71 catches (Bears record under Lovie Smith) for 951 yards and 5 TDs.
Tight End: Greg Olsen (2009) – In his breakout year with Cutler at QB, he caught 60 passes for 612 yards and 8 TDs. No Bears tight end has caught that many passes and TDs since Da Coach. Another amazing stat is that Olsen had 33 first downs and zero fumbles. Oh, what could have been…
Honorable Mention: Desmond Clark (2006) – He was a big reason the Bears offense was good enough to make it to the Super Bowl. He caught 45 passes for 626 yards and 6 TDs in the regular season and led the Bears with 6 catches for 64 yards in the Super Bowl.
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