What We Learned This Season

After coming out on the short end in Super Bowl XLI, the Chicago Bears just assumed they were destined to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XLII. That's not going to happen after a disappointing 7-9 campaign, so Bear Report came away from the 2007 season with these five observations.

1. This team needs stability – not a superstar – at the quarterback position
Rex Grossman, Brian Griese, and Kyle Orton all started games and came out on the winning end this season, but all of them also started games and stunk up the joint. Orton is the only signal-caller who's a lock to return in 2008 since he's under contract for very little money, while Grossman could leave via free agency and Griese could be jettisoned to save precious salary-cap dollars. Regardless of who comes back and who is wearing a different uniform next season, head coach Lovie Smith needs to have an open competition for the starting job in training camp as opposed to simply handing the keys to his favorite as he's known to do.

As much as Bears fans may not want to believe this, re-signing Grossman is probably the best move because the free agent crop is lacking, Derek Anderson will cost too much in terms of compensation and financial commitment, and drafting another first-round QB might trigger the rebuilding process.

2. Briggs is a mercenary and should not be given a long-term contract
Designating Lance Briggs as the team's franchise player last season was the right thing to do, because $7.2 million for 16 games of Pro-Bowl linebacker play made sense for a team on the cusp of a title. However, after struggling all year long to the tune of a 7-9 record, and with a pair of potential replacements on the roster already in Jamar Williams and Michael Okwo, the Bears need to let Briggs walk and spend their money on more immediate needs. Briggs showed his true colors in 2007, professing to be a team player on the outside but only interested in a bank-breaking payday on the inside.

He may be a dynamite athlete and one of the best open-field tacklers in all of football, but he's not a "special" player like former Defensive Player of the Year Brian Urlacher and never will be.

3. Berrian is the best of an average bunch but not a true primary target

WR Bernard Berrian
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Images
Bernard Berrian can look to the lack of a running game and a never-ending carousel at the quarterback position for why he didn't crack the 1,000-yard plateau for the first time this season, but Roddy White totaled 1,202 receiving yards on a horrible Falcons team catching passes from the likes of Joey Harrington, Byron Leftwich, and Chris Redman. Although Berrian is one of the better deep threats in the game and consistently runs crisp patterns, he is constantly battling track-star injuries and isn't much of a threat on short and intermediate routes. He may be the No. 1 receiver in Chicago, but that doesn't necessarily make him a No. 1 receiver in this league.

While signing Berrian to a long-term contract extension would be a good move – so long as the money is right – since he's by far the best wideout on the roster, getting involved in a free-agent bidding war would be unwise.

4. Brown is the single most indispensable player on the entire roster
For three quarters in Week 1 against an explosive San Diego offense, the Monsters of the Midway looked better than ever on defense with Mike Brown patrolling the secondary once again. Reigning MVP LaDainian Tomlinson was held to just 25 yards on 17 carries that day, and Brown was all over the field with two solo tackles, two assists, two passes defensed, an interception, and a fumble recovery – all those injuries apparently didn't damage his nose for the football. Tomlinson and the Chargers finally made some plays late in the game after Brown tore his ACL and eventually won 14-3, while the Bears were never the same team defensively the rest of the year and finished a dreadful 28th in the league by season's end.

Bears fans need to ask themselves one very important question: Would it hurt more to see Brown come back in 2008 just to get placed on injured reserve yet again, or would it hurt more to cut ties with the Pro Bowler only to see him resurrect his career in, say, Detroit?

5. Overlooking the offensive line in last year's NFL Draft was a big mistake
The Bears had one of the most experienced offensive lines in all of football in 2006 and sent both center Olin Kreutz and left guard Ruben Brown to the Pro Bowl, but that same unit was a colossal failure in 2007 and the primary reason why this team struggled to move the ball consistently. Cedric Benson needs his teammates in the trenches to open holes for him because he's not the kind of back who's going to make something out of nothing, and Adrian Peterson proved to be no better after Benson went down with a season-ending ankle injury. Left tackle John Tait is overdue for a move back to the right side, right tackle Fred Miller was an embarrassment with all the swinging-gate blocks and pre-snap penalties, and right guard Roberto Garza has proven to be nothing special.

GM Jerry Angelo should have come away from the first day of last year's draft with at least one young O-line prospect, but all he did was take guard Josh Beekman in the fourth round – he was inactive for 15 of 16 games – and tackle Aaron Brant in the seventh – he got hurt in the preseason and was given an injury settlement.

John Crist is the Editor in Chief of BearReport.com and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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  • Remembering legendary Hall-of-Famer George Musso
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  • All of that plus much more in the February issue of ...

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