Since 1992, the Green Bay Packers have had two losing seasons. In that same 25-year span, the Chicago Bears have had 14 losing campaigns.
So when the Bears cut a steady veteran like Matt Slauson, no one bats an eye, but when the Packers release a player like Josh Sitton, a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, people take notice.
Like the New England Patriots, when the Packers waive a seemingly valuable player, the first question teams ask themselves is "what's wrong with him?"
The Packers waived Sitton on Saturday before the 53-man roster deadline and the Bears signed him a little over 24 hours later. GM Ryan Pace said familiarity within the division allowed Bears brass to vet Sitton at an accelerated rate.
"One of the important things about him being in our division is we know other players very well," Pace said today. "So any division opponent you have fresh reports on all those players, which I like because sometimes I feel like there's a tendency … let's say you have a need at a position, you can almost create it, you can manufacture. But with this we had good grades on this player regardless, that are just neutral. So when he became available, I think that's a testament again to our scouting department, we have to act quick on this. He's right up the road and there's a lot of teams interested in him. Let's just have him drive down and get on this right now and be aggressive and be decisive. I think the ability to be that way came with our preparation."
Still, the Packers have been a far more successful franchise the past 25 years. Was there any concern that the Packers know something about Sitton that the Bears do not?
"That’s the first thing that pops into your head. Hey, this guy is talented, we’re watching every single game from last season and watching him play at an extremely high level. Hey, what’s going on here, man? What are the reasons?" said Pace. "That’s when you do a ton of research. You’ve got to do a ton of research on these things, coupled with meeting the player and feeling his personality and getting the medical report. All those things go into these decisions. But that’s a question you ask yourself.
"This is a good player that’s getting released a week before the season. I have a lot of respect for that organization. They’ve been a highly successful franchise, so everybody makes decisions internally for what they feel is best and I’m sure that’s what they did. But we did all our research and at the end of the day, we felt good about it and he’s out there."
Sitton has dealt with nagging back injuries of late but he's missed just two games since 2009, so unless there's a hidden injury, durability shouldn't be an issue.
For his part, Sitton said location and weather played large roles in his decision to sign in Chicago.
"I wanted to get the decision made yesterday or today, as quickly as I can," Sitton said. "I wanted to get to where I was going and be able to learn the offense and be able to jump in right this week. The longer it took, the harder it would have been to learn the offense. Chicago, they had me in first, and they got it done first."
Sitton said sticking it to the Packers had nothing to do with his signing with a division rival.
"Honestly, it didn’t have anything to do with sticking it to the Packers," said Sitton. "More familiar with the division, close to where I was. I like the weather up here. We had a few other teams interested. It’s too damn hot in the south."
Sitton will start right away at left guard for the Bears and should provide an immediate boost to Chicago's offensive line.
"I like being aggressive," Pace said. "It would be like we’re preparing for the draft, your guys have put in so much hard work, and then we trade every pick. Those guys, we’re working so hard, we’ve identified players that we like, let’s not sit on our hands. At any level on the team, the 53rd player, if we have an avenue to get better let’s be aggressive and let’s go do that. I think we’re always going to operate like that. We’re always going to be trying to get better, we’re always going to be trying to challenge ourselves. It could be in training camp and the 90th guy, to me every single move is significant."