Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Devin Hester broke the NFL record for most return touchdowns on Thursday Night Football, topping his mentor Deion Sanders with whom he shared the record of 19 return TD’s. Hester stands alone as the best returner in NFL history and is surely on his way to the Hall of Fame. But a funny thing happened on the way to the Hall; Hester took a shot at his former teammate Jay Cutler.
When asked about his experience in Atlanta so far, Hester opened up about his last few years in Chicago.
"“I’m happy, man.” Hester said of being in Atlanta. “You know what, I’m going to say it, man. I wasn’t happy the last three, four years in Chicago, because things wasn’t going the way I expect. I would always have a great camp, have all the receivers saying and coaches saying I had the best camp out of all the receivers. And once the season start off, I’m not there.“You know, and I got a quarterback now that, he loves even the walk-ons, man. And the coaches know how to get the ball to me, you know, make plays for me. And I’m excited for this season, man. This is only the beginning for our team.”"
That second paragraph makes it pretty clear that Hester and Cutler never connected. From the very first preseason game, when Cutler said Hester wasn’t a “go up and get it guy” you knew the relationship was rocky. Hester is they type of guy who needs reassurance and praise to boost his confidence. Clearly, he felt that he wasn’t getting that here in Chicago. Some may blame Cutler for chasing Hester out of town after reading that quote, but not so fast.
Hester signed a pretty hefty 3-year, $9 million deal including a $2.5 million signing bonus to join the Falcons. With all of the needs the Bears had on defense, could they have afforded to pay Hester? To be just a returner, probably not. But the revelation of Hester in Atlanta is not as a returner, it’s Hester as a receiver and an offensive weapon.
You know, and I got a quarterback now that, he loves even the walk-ons, man. And the coaches know how to get the ball to me, you know, make plays for me.
On the season, Hester has 7 catches for 126 yards and last night had a rushing touchdown on a 20-yard end around. Hester seems to be part of the regular mix with the Falcons, while with the Bears, when he was used on offense, he was in for set gadget plays, which tipped defenses off to key on him. Hester asked to be removed from the offense to focus on returns in his last season with the Bears. It’s a shame that Marc Trestman couldn’t have worked him into the offensive mix. Judging by what he’s done in Atlanta this season, he’d have been an ideal compliment to Marshall and Jeffery, especially while Marquess Wilson is on IR nursing a bum shoulder.
It’s nice to see a resurgent Hester, even if it’s not with the Bears. Hester’s greatness is good for the NFL. He set the record against his former coach last night. Who know what he’ll do when the Bears visit Atalanta on October 12th?
Do you think the Bears made a mistake letting Hester go? Do you blame Cutler for Hester’s departure from the Bears?
Watch the full post-game with Devin and his emotional moment with Prime Time here.