The New York Jets are cutting Thomas Jones – the finest Bears offensive player since Neal Anderson – and the move is not sitting well in their locker room. Jones is coming off the best year of his terrific career and will certainly earn one more lucrative contract in the 2-3 year range. (He’s 32 and organizations take that over 30 running back thing very seriously.)
The Bears have missed him desperately. Jones was the leadership on the offensive side of the ball, vocal in the huddle and passionate on every play. He carried a team with a stable-at-best quarterback to an unlikely Super Bowl appearance. It is no coincidence that Jones’ arrival in New Jersey marked a much-needed turnaround in the organization’s offensive philosophy and physicality. Overnight they went from a struggling unit to the best running team in the league.
Will the Bears want him back? If they are as committed to the run as they claim to be the answer is a shouted-from-the-rooftops “Yes!” TJ, in tandem with Matt Forte the way he was with Shonn Greene, would give the Bears a toughness and versatility they sorely lacked in 2009. It would also allow Mike Martz to line Forte up out wide, creating yet another mismatch with his excellent pass-catching skills, and still force defenses to respect the run.
But more than that, Jones would provide another voice in the huddle. A leader’s voice. Someone to give Jay Cutler the business should he throw a couple untimely interceptions. If there is an intangible knock on #6 that I agree with it’s that his laid-back demeanor can often give the fans an impression of lethargy from the entire unit. With TJ back in the huddle, that becomes an impossibility. Jones won’t let Cutler shrug his shoulders and lower his head. He won’t let players leave anything on the field.
Dueling personalities and the Chicago Bears have worked in the past, most notably on the sideline of a certain mid-80s group. Jerry and Lovie might want to give it another shot.