Chris Conte: Where did it go wrong?

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Dec 29, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears free safety Chris Conte (47) reacts with defensive tackle Stephen Paea (92) after intercepting a pass during the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

There is no doubt if Bear fans had to choose one player to symbolize the horrible defense in 2013, Chris Conte would be the overwhelming choice. Yes, Conte had a horrible season, only more amplified on the last play against Green Bay.  But is this blame and vilification of Conte justified?  His he no more or less to blame than the other players that didn’t execute?

After that Green Bay game, it bothered me how the fans tore into Conte.  How he was blamed for all the ills of the defense. How he single handily gave Green Bay the playoff spot.  That he should be cut and if he returns for the final year of his rookie contract it will spell doom for the Bears.  All this angst against one player got me thinking.  What went wrong with Conte? He had a solid 2012 campaign, and was it possible he all of sudden became a terrible player?  With that in mind, I began to do some research on Chris Conte, and what I discovered, was that no fault of his own, the prior Bears coaching staff may have set him up to fail.

What I am about to share with you is not an apology for Chris Conte, but an attempt to put his skills in perspective and  how the past Bears coaches may have ignored all the signs of his limitations and put him in a position where if things went wrong, he would fail. One note, this is not a condemnation of  Jon Hoke, the DB coach, I believe that Jon has worked wonders with Chris and has maximized all of his skills.

Let’s start at Cal where Conte played.  In his senior year, they switched him to safety, prior to that he played corner back for two seasons.  Not every player can make that switch, but it appeared Conte did well for the Cal defensive was rated a +1 and ranked  50th nationally in pass defense.  The only comment I have,  does one year at safety for a middle of the road defense warrant a 3rd selection? When most scouts had him pegged for the back half of the draft.  It was evident from the beginning he was inexperienced.