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.
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|32||2012||18||2012-10-01||CHI||@||DAL||L 18-34||3||Receiving||34||Jay Cutler|
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.