This letter is basically in direct response to Phil Lutz and those fans that agree with his version of recent Chicago Bear history. I consider Bear fans to be the most knowledgeable and levelheaded in the league. But there is a persistent myth amongst many of these fans regarding the top choices from the 2001 draft, David Terrell and Anthony Thomas.
The first is that Terrell is an evil, wicked person who has broken the trust of Bear fans over and over again. Every year he is given the chance to start and every time he failed on the field. We all know this isn't true, and yet this is a common opinion on the receiver. Quite the contrary, the Greatest Practice Player Ever to Grace the Face of the Earth, Dez White, was the one who let the team down every week. All Terrell did was catch touchdowns… and celebrate them. But if a guy's touchdown celebrations factor heavily in your personnel evaluation, your priorities are confused – or you have watched too much of John Shoop's "offense".
When given a chance, Terrell has played well. He makes clutch plays and has graded out as the Bears best run blocking receiver, which Bear fans should like. He might be a little goofy. But he deserves a fresh start with the new staff.
As for Anthony Thomas, get the story straight: Jauron and Shoop were no big believers in A-Train. The only difference is they had no other back on the roster worth starting, and they still wouldn't give Thomas the ball.
At least Terry Shea and Lovie Smith know what they want from the position; a guy with speed who can catch the ball. Signing Thomas Jones was a great move; at best the Bears get a dynamic, explosive weapon, maybe even the next Marshall Faulk. At worst it creates depth where the team had a need for it. All at reasonable cost, if it doesn't work out they can cut him lose next year.
The coaching staff believes there is room for both Jones and "A-Train" on this team. It seems reasonable to me: picture Jones darting up the sideline like Priest Holmes and Thomas punishing defenses inside the 10-yard line. Bear fans, it is a little early for the panic button, don't you think?
Anthony Thomas is a good back but as I've commented before, he really can't make something out of nothing. When there's a hole where he expects it to be, he can usually get through it and pick up some yards. Occasionally he breaks a long gain against an eight-man front when the linebackers and safeties are coming up for the stop and he breaks through. But, the guy is not a great power runner, he's not a great cutback runner and all too often he runs into his blockers rather than cutting off those blocks to daylight and as a result he goes nowhere.
Still, he's averaged 4.0 yards per carry over his 3-year career and he seldom fumbles. I'm sorry if some disagree, but you don't just cut a guy with that kind of performance unless he has some ungodly high salary. He doesn't.
Thomas Jones is a good pickup because has far more outright speed, quickness, and elusiveness than Anthony Thomas. Whether he deserves to be handed the #1 job is questionable but time will tell. It wasn't handled quite right but I expect come camp and preseason the competition will heat up and "A-Train" will be given his reps as well. The thought of having both of them intrigues me. I think this may well be the most productive year in terms of total yards and touchdowns we've seen from the HB spot in many years.
It seems that Lovie Smith has decided to go with Thomas Jones over Anthony Thomas. Why? For some reason people think "A-Train" has been a bust, and a disappointment. I certainly don't think so. Let's do a couple of comparisons that may back my point...
1) Thomas has averaged at least 4.2 yards per carry two times over the past three seasons. Has Eddie George EVER averaged at least 4.2 yards per carry during one of his nine seasons in the NFL? Nope, not one single time. Emmitt Smith has a total average of 4.2 yards per carry over his amazing career...and look where he has ended up. Thomas' total average per carry is 4.0 over the past 3 seasons.
2). Thomas Jones (our new savior of the backfield) has only started 18 total games in his illustrious career. How can he take the place of a running back with numbers like Thomas? You can't tell me that he catches the ball that much better than "A-Train". Neither one of them have ever scored a receiving touchdown in their NFL careers. Jones fumbled the ball four times last year compared to Thomas' one. Just because Jones can beat Thomas in the 40-yard ash should not mean Jones has the position! I just don't get it.
If you compare the numbers, Thomas is the winner of the position. He has been the very under-rated piece of the puzzle of the team. John Shoop may not have done a stupendous job with the offense when he was here, but he knew one thing..."A-Train: can run. I guess sometimes even a blind squirrel finds an acorn.
The Bears have given a clean slate to the players who didn't prove themselves over the past couple of years. How come that doesn't include the players that have proven themselves. Anthony Thomas has rushed for two 1000-yard seasons without the help of a strong offensive line. Imagine what he could do with a great group of blockers. The Bears might have a new system but they should give "A-Train" the same chance they gave everyone else. I support the other choices the Bears made this off-season besides turning their back on the "A-Train".