How many times did Ron Turner turn to Jason McKie on third-and-short or at the goal line in crucial situations? How many times did Jason McKie come up empty? The fullback dive was my personal Waterloo, an inescapably horrible play call that lived at the top of Turner’s to do list. More than just ineffective in specific situations, it’s failure symbolized the lack of toughness that plagued the heart of the Bears offense. They had no Nagurski. No Hilgenberg, Bortz or Thayer. They seemed hell-bent on reminding us by ramming McKie into a hole-less middle of the line of scrimmage. So often over these past two season, the Bears have felt very close to being a good football team. Cutting McKie got them a bit closer.
Two weeks ago the Chicago Bears made a statement to the NFL by cutting $100 million in paychecks in one twenty-four hour period. This week they made a statement to fans by cutting Jason McKie and Nathan Vasher. The statement? “We’re sorry.”
The last time Nathan Vasher was good so was the Bears defense. His steady decline, from borderline Pro Bowler and premiere ballhawk to soon-to-be UFL standout, has been mirrored by the rest of the roster as they’ve descended the league rankings and grown old before our very eyes. Lovie and company continually marched Vasher onto the field, changing his role, in a desperate attempt to rediscover the exhilarating talent of the 2006 campaign. They never did.
And now the team seems to have finally moved on. The more days that pass since the end of the 2009 season, the more it seems the 2010 team will actually look and feel different. Gone are the Lovie stalwarts, seemingly promised a roster spot due to an emotional connection to the head coach. Here are the Martz-specific skill position guys and high profile defensive stars. Here is a new era with the same leader. I just wonder if it can work.