Dec. 23, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA: Chicago Bears wide receiver Devin Hester (23) reacts against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Devin Hester: Can the Swagger Return?


It’s been a rocky offseason for Chicago Bears wide receiver return specialist Devin Hester and many fans are ready to run him out of town.  Is it premature to give up on him?  Is there anything left in the tank?  Is he in a slump or is he in decline?  There is some interesting history that might give hope that he can find his lost swagger. 

When head coach Lovie Smith was fired, Hester contemplated calling it quits.  Next came word that he wouldn’t be quitting but was getting demoted from wide receiver to kick returner.  As it turns out, or as he’d have you believe, the switch to return man was all his idea:

“I’m fine with it,” Hester said on the show, which is hosted by former Bears fullback Jason McKie (@Jmack37). “It was kind of my idea to let me more focus on my kickoff and punt return thing. … It was more of my idea to do it.”

The genius of the new head coach is he made Devin believe it was his idea, Jedi mind trick or otherwise.

“Me and coach Trestman talked before I went home for the break and we came up with the idea that I would just go back to being a key return man — a punt return and kickoff return man — and a little bit more special teams,” Hester said. “That would be what I know as of now my role to be for the upcoming season.”

The stretch that Devin had last season isn’t the first time he’s been shut out in the return game.  He went on a two year sabbatical following his ridiculous 2006 and 2007 seasons, when he set the league on fire and changed the return game forever.  Fast forward to 2008, when Devin went full time wide receiver and got shut out.  He had a few receiving touchdowns in 2008 and 2009, but didn’t get back to the return game until 2010.

 

Rk Year G# Date Tm Opp Result Quarter Type Dist Quarterback
1 2006 1 2006-09-10 CHI @ GNB W 26-0 4 Punt Return 84
2 2006 6 2006-10-16 CHI @ ARI W 24-23 4 Punt Return 83
3 2006 9 2006-11-12 CHI @ NYG W 38-20 4 Field Goal Return 108
4 2006 12 2006-12-03 CHI MIN W 23-13 2 Punt Return 45
5 2006 13 2006-12-11 CHI @ STL W 42-27 2 Kickoff Return 94
6 2006 13 2006-12-11 CHI @ STL W 42-27 4 Kickoff Return 96
Rk Year G# Date Tm Opp Result Quarter Type Dist Quarterback
7 2007 2 2007-09-16 CHI KAN W 20-10 2 Punt Return 73
8 2007 4 2007-09-30 CHI @ DET L 27-37 4 Kickoff Return 97
9 2007 6 2007-10-14 CHI MIN L 31-34 1 Punt Return 89
10 2007 6 2007-10-14 CHI MIN L 31-34 4 Receiving 81 Brian Griese
11 2007 11 2007-11-25 CHI DEN W 37-34 3 Punt Return 75
12 2007 11 2007-11-25 CHI DEN W 37-34 3 Kickoff Return 88
13 2007 16 2007-12-30 CHI NOR W 33-25 2 Receiving 55 Kyle Orton
14 2007 16 2007-12-30 CHI NOR W 33-25 3 Punt Return 64
Rk Year G# Date Tm Opp Result Quarter Type Dist Quarterback
15 2008 4 2008-09-28 CHI PHI W 24-20 2 Receiving 20 Kyle Orton
16 2008 5 2008-10-05 CHI @ DET W 34-7 2 Receiving 12 Kyle Orton
17 2008 12 2008-11-30 CHI @ MIN L 14-34 1 Receiving 65 Kyle Orton
Rk Year G# Date Tm Opp Result Quarter Type Dist Quarterback
18 2009 1 2009-09-13 CHI @ GNB L 15-21 3 Receiving 36 Jay Cutler
19 2009 3 2009-09-27 CHI @ SEA W 25-19 4 Receiving 36 Jay Cutler
20 2009 6 2009-10-25 CHI @ CIN L 10-45 4 Receiving 5 Jay Cutler
Rk Year G# Date Tm Opp Result Quarter Type Dist Quarterback
21 2010 2 2010-09-19 CHI @ DAL W 27-20 2 Receiving 9 Jay Cutler
22 2010 3 2010-09-27 CHI GNB W 20-17 4 Punt Return 62
23 2010 6 2010-10-17 CHI SEA L 20-23 4 Punt Return 89
24 2010 9 2010-11-14 CHI MIN W 27-13 2 Receiving 19 Jay Cutler
25 2010 14 2010-12-20 CHI @ MIN W 40-14 2 Receiving 15 Jay Cutler
26 2010 14 2010-12-20 CHI @ MIN W 40-14 3 Punt Return 64
27 2010 15 2010-12-26 CHI NYJ W 38-34 3 Receiving 25 Jay Cutler
Rk Year G# Date Tm Opp Result Quarter Type Dist Quarterback
28 2011 4 2011-10-02 CHI CAR L 29-34 2 Punt Return 69
29 2011 6 2011-10-16 CHI MIN W 39-10 1 Receiving 48 Jay Cutler
30 2011 6 2011-10-16 CHI MIN W 39-10 3 Kickoff Return 98
31 2011 9 2011-11-13 CHI DET L 13-37 2 Punt Return 82
Rk Year G# Date Tm Opp Result Quarter Type Dist Quarterback
32 2012 18 2012-10-01 CHI @ DAL L 18-34 3 Receiving 34 Jay Cutler
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/9/2013.

It’s a good move and the right move to take Devin off of offense and let him focus, get back to his roots. Over the last couple of seasons, he has contributed a total of two receiving touchdowns.  If sitting in offensive meetings and running routes are distracting him from whatever he does to excel at special teams, the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.

Can Hester get his swagger back as a returner? It’s not the first time he’s lost it, so there’s definitely a chance. Hopefully new special teams coach Joe DeCamillis can unlock whatever has been missing for Hester and get this valuable weapon back on track.  I’m afraid if Hester follows his previous pattern of two good years followed by two bad years, it will be another shutout season before he recaptures the magic and if it take that long, he could be doing it for another team.

What do you think Bears fans?  Can Hester “return” to glory or is he done as an elite return man?  Should the Bears try to keep him on offense or should he focus on special teams?  Do you think he’s on the team in 2013 or will he get traded or cut before camp opens?  Let’s see your comments.

BEAR DOWN!!!

Tags: Chicago Bears Devin Hester

  • http://twitter.com/Stujoe Stu Miller

    The first thing they need to do is point him towards the proper end zone every play. Maybe that will limit the left, right and backwards stuff that he has taken way past the extreme.

    • BearGogglesOn

      Good point Stu. I get the sense that he does that when he’s desperate to break out of a slump.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chilichillin Ronald Larson

      To be fair, this is not new. He has been doing that kind of stuff since he was at Miami. However, only recently has his special team blocking been down right awful.