By Bryan Dietzler
The Bears have been blessed over the past few seasons to get such solid play from the running back position with a guy like Matt Forte. Forte has been consistent, fairly durable and very reliable during his time with the Bears and that has helped the Bear’s offense out greatly. Forte is a high class guy who cares about his community and loves his team. He has been an asset to the organization and is one of those players that the Bears can’t really seem to do without.
So how did Forte get to the Bears? What was his career like before he came to Chicago? What has he done since he has been with the Bears? What does his future hold? Read on to find out more about this fascinating player and all of his accomplishments.
Forte and his family grew up in Slidell, Louisiana. He graduated from Slidell High School where he was a star in football and track. In his senior season he was named the St. Tammany Parish Player of the Year, All Metro selection and his district’s offensive MVP. Just like he would do with the Bears later on in his career, Forte was effective running the ball as well as catching it out of the backfield.
Forte was recruited by Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana and that’s where he played his college ball. He had a successful career there with Tulane but suffered a knee injury during his junior season which cut that season short. Some of the awards he won while at Tulane included being named to the Conference USA All-Freshman, Third Team AP All-American, All Conference USA selection (two times) and both a Doak Walker and Maxwell Award semi-finalist.
The 2008 Senior Bowl is where Forte really got noticed by NFL scouts. He had a stellar game and was named the Senior Bowl MVP for his performance.
It was thought that Forte was the third best running back in the 2008 NFL draft but he slipped out of the first round and fell to the Bears who selected him with the forty fourth pick of the draft that year (second round). The Bears originally brought him in help push their current starter, Cedric Benson, along and provide him some competition but Benson ended up getting released thanks to legal issues so Forte was left to compete for the starting position with two lower-level players (Garrett Wolfe and Adrian Peterson). Forte was able to win the starting job.
His debut with the Bears was a good one. Playing against the Indianapolis Colts he ran the ball 23 times for 123 yards and in the process he set a team record for yards gained by a running back making their debut with the team. He also scored his first touchdown as a Bear in that game. Forte ended the 2008 season with over 1000 yards on the ground and over 1700 yards total from scrimmage. His season was a solid one and it foretold what kind of player he would be in the future.
In 2009 Forte rushed for under 1000 yards (929) and caught 57 passes for 471 yards. He had a total of seven touchdowns as well. He also had his highest number of fumbles in any one year he has been with the Bears with six in 2009. He lost three of those fumbles.
In 2010 Forte had another solid season for the Bears and was even named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts in the first week of the season. All together Forte rushed for 1069 yards and six touchdowns while adding another 547 yards in the air with three touchdowns. During the 2011 season, Forte was limited to just 12 games as he suffered an injury to his MCL in a game against the Chiefs and was then placed on injured reserve. Despite that he was selected to the Pro Bowl and did come back to play in that game.
For the 2011 season, Forte tallied 997 yards on the ground with three touchdowns. He also added 490 yards on passes for two one touchdown and had two fumbles with both of those lost in a shortened season.
The Bears had a little bit of contract work to do on Forte for the 2012 season. Chicago decided to go ahead and give him the franchise tag that year which was worth 7.74 million. Forte wasn’t too happy about that and decided to hold himself out of the OTA workouts with thoughts about holding out for a longer tem deal. The Bears did end up signing him to a four year 32 million dollar deal. The normally durable Forte did suffer an injury early in the season and his production suffered. He totaled 1094 yards with five touchdowns on the ground while catching 340 yards in passes with one touchdown. He also fumbled twice losing just one fumble.
The 2013 season saw Forte rush for a total of 1339 yards and nine touchdowns his highest totals of his career to date. He also caught 74 passes for 594 yards and three touchdowns. He had two fumbles both of those lost. He seemed to flourish under the new system installed by then head coach Marc Trestman and was voted to the Pro Bowl once again for his efforts. He just missed being voted FedEx Ground Player of the Year. Good things were thought to be coming for Forte in the second year under Trestman in the new offense.
While the Bears didn’t do all that well in the standings in 2014 Forte had another productive season. He rushed for 1038 yards and six touchdowns while catching a now NFL record 102 passes for 808 yards and four touchdowns. He had two fumbles with both of those lost. Forte’s season was a solid one as he caught a lot of passes in an offense that was geared to throw the ball to the running backs often. That offense would go away, however, as the Bears fired Trestman and brought in John Fox from Denver.
So far this season, Forte has rushed for 548 yards and two touchdowns. He has caught 25 passes for 219 yards and one touchdown. As of the writing of this writing Forte is down with a knee injury and has missed the Bear’s game against the San Diego Chargers. The Bears hope to have him back soon though so he can continue to contribute on offense for the Bears. Jeremy Langford, Forte’s backup, shined in his game against the Chargers so this might make the Bears miss Forte a little less but he is very hard to replace.
The future for Forte and the Bears is somewhat unclear. Forte’s contract is up at the end of this season and Chicago has made no effort to try to discuss getting him a new contract. Granted, he is getting up in age and a thirty year old running back may not be exactly the kind of player the Bears want to have but Forte has proved that he is still effective despite is age and is very durable. The Bears may want to offer him a lower level contract for a shorter amount of time and bring him back. Or they might let him test the free agent waters and see what kinds of offers he gets.
It would be nice to see Forte stay in a Bears uniform for the remainder of his career. It’s up to the Bears as to what happens as it’s been assured by Forte that he would like to remain a Bear for the rest of his career. The Bears could certainly use him and his talents for at least a couple more seasons but he may find himself finishing out his career with another team in 2016. It will be interesting to keep an eye on the developments with Forte as the season progresses and free agency arrives.