By Bryan Dietzler
If you haven’t heard, the Bears recently cut defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff in a move that surprised some fans and the media. The Bears didn’t give much in regards to answers as to why they cut Ratliff. They simply stated that it was a move that was best for the team and that in the end it would all work out.
The details behind the motives for releasing Ratliff are somewhat unclear. There was some talk that he came into practice in a condition to where he was unable or unfit for practice (media reports rule out that he was intoxicated when he came to practice and that it might have had something to do with his neck) and the Bears staff asked him to leave. Other reports say that there was a family member called to come and pick Ratliff up and take him home.
Following that, there was a heated exchange between Ratliff and General Manager Ryan Pace and Ratliff was escorted from the building and police were called to sit out in front and protect the structure.
Shortly afterwards, Ratliff was cut from the team and the Bears signed Pittsburgh Steelers former first round pick Ziggy Hood. All of this was rather sudden to say the least.
The Bears move to cut Ratliff has surprised some and the Bears coaching and management staff aren’t saying much about it. It doesn’t make a lot of sense that the Bears would cut the best player on the defensive line, someone that they praised in the preseason and someone that they held high regards for.
All that can be said is that this altercation must have been serious enough to warrant that Ratliff get cut and the Bears take a hit on defense as a result.
They may have sent a message that the team isn’t going to take these things lightly and if you argue with management your days in a Bear’s uniform are clearly numbered.
So was this the right move for the Bear’s? Chicago did get rid of their best defensive lineman with this move and it’s hard to imagine that the team got better by signing Hood who is somewhat washed up and hasn’t been healthy that often over the past few seasons. The Bears are taking a big risk by cutting Ratliff because it hurts their defense and they may not have the horses up front to overcome his loss.
There is another side to this story that deserves to be told. Ratliff hadn’t been playing up to expectations since his return to the team earlier this season. Ratliff missed the first three games of the season serving a suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
Couple that with an ankle injury that he suffered in preseason and he made his 2015 regular season debut with the team a little later than expected. The injury that he suffered kept him from performing at a high level and he struggled somewhat in the Bear’s game against the Lions.
It’s suffice to say that Ratliff may have been reaching the end with injuries bringing him down and the Bears may have been right releasing him at this point.
Chicago has made some moves this season that have left people scratching their heads and wondering just what this team is up to. They traded away Jared Allen and Jonathan Bostic for six round picks and they are constantly churning the bottom of their roster. This may be something that that Bears fans haven’t seen much of before, a general manager that is constantly trying to find the right pieces to put together a winning team.
That appears to be what Pace is doing. If you don’t fit the system or there is someone else out there that is better you will be replaced. That is the mindset that the Bears appear to have right now.
This could be very good for the Bears although it’s hard to see, right now, just how good it may be. The Bears have only won two games this season (they did come close to winning a third) so roster turnover to find the best combination to win games may be just what this team needs.
The Bears are slowly finding their identity and the coaching staff and general manager are helping them do that. If cutting Ratliff helps them establish their identity better and gives them a shot at winning games then fans and the media should be supportive of this.
So the move to cut Ratliff, in the end, may be a good one for the Bears. If Ratliff had the attitude and “short temper” that he has presented in the past (he apparently had issues in Dallas where he was at before he came to the Bears) then it’s probably good that he is gone.
The Bears may have lost their best defensive lineman but it can be assured that head coach John Fox and Pace thought this the best move for the Bears in the long run and it just might be the best move possible.