Forte has declared that he will not play until he receives the long-term, security granting contract that he seeks. With offseason workouts already started, and Forte a no-show, it's time to consider the effect his absence will have on the Chicago Bears' season.
Forte is the heart and soul of the Chicago Bears' offense, and they would suffer dramatically if he missed the 2012 season. Without his dual-threat ability, the offense would surely stall.
Prior to his injury in week 13, Forte was leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage. He had 997 rushing yards and 490 receiving yards, along with four total touchdowns. These talents made him the focal point of opposing defenses.
After his injury in 2011, Michael Bush was signed in the offseason as an insurance policy for Matt Forte. Clearly, Bush was signed to back up Matt Forte, not to start in his place.
Bush is a solid running back, rushing for 977 yards and seven touchdowns and catching 37 passes for 418 yards and a score in the 2011 season. Bush certainly has a nose for the end zone, and he runs very well between the tackles.
Additionally, his size makes him adept in short yardage situations. While Bush’s numbers are decent and he has a solid skill set, they don’t compare to Forte’s numbers from 2011 or his overall talent.
In addition, Bush also lacks the track record of Forte. Playing in Oakland, Bush never served as the featured back, consistently sharing time with Darren McFadden. Given Bush’s injury history, it is certainly plausible that he would breakdown trying to carry the load for an entire season.
Forte has been the featured back since he was drafted. It would be unfair to expect Bush to replicate Forte’s stats in his first opportunity in a starting job.
The loss of Forte would also have a negative impact on the Chicago Bears' passing game, especially on Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall. With Forte on the field, defenses are forced to account for him on every play, limiting the number of defenders who can drop back into coverage.
Consequently, this makes life much easier for the Bears receivers, Marshall in particular, who only has to beat single coverage. With receivers in single coverage, life is easier for Jay Cutler as well, as he simply finds the open receiver every play.
The Cutler-Forte combination has proven to be exceptionally successful, with the Bears advancing to the NFC Championship game in 2010, and posting a 7-3 record prior to Cutler’s injury in 2011.
With Forte out of the lineup in 2012, what happens? The rushing game regresses significantly as Michael Bush isn't the same caliber back as Matt Forte. The passing game isn't as explosive as opposing defenses focus on shutting down Jay Cutler and the Bears receivers.
Without the ability to run the ball, the Bears struggle in the cold weather of November and December. An 8-8 season would be considered a huge success without Forte, but 6-10 or 7-9 is a much more realistic overall record. With the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions in the division, the Bears don’t have a shot at the playoffs if Forte holds out.
Forte is the Bears' most complete player. His ability to run the ball and be a receiving threat out of the backfield make him one of the best running backs in the NFL. These abilities make him the focal point of the Bears offense, and allow Jay Cutler and the passing game to flourish.
Remove Forte from the Chicago Bears offense and it instantly becomes mediocre. If Forte sits in 2012, the Chicago Bears will struggle significantly and will certainly miss the Playoffs.