It's days like yesterday when you can't help but openly wonder if there are higher powers working against the Chicago Bears from ever having a potent passing attack. How else do you explain the always-stuck-in-first-gear career of Greg Olsen? When the Bears made Olsen the 31st pick in the 2007 draft, he appeared to be the type of offensive weapon the Bears could only hope to acquire in their wildest dreams. He was tall (6'5), he was fast (4.5 40), and he was seemingly the next in a long line of Miami Hurricane tight ends taking the NFL by storm. When the Bears made the trade for quarterback Jay Cutler, it was Olsen whom everyone saw as the biggest beneficiary. But while the two formed a strong relationship off the field, the pair never took flight on it. After four underwhelming seasons in Chicago, the Bears dealt Olsen to the Carolina Panthers yesterday for a third round draft pick. For fans wearing Bears-tinted glasses that always saw Olsen's potential rather than his production, the move felt like a kick to the stomach.
This trade is many things: curious, disheartening, unfortunate. Mostly, it's just another symbol of the Bears' near historic offensive ineptitude. If the Jay Cutler + Greg Olsen combination couldn't make it work, why should we ever believe that one day soon will be any different?
Let's set some things straight up front: Olsen's physical tools were on display for all the world to see, but it's hard for me to muster up much sympathy for the recently departed tight end. Simply put, he never made good on his promise, and morphed into one of the most frustrating Bears to watch each Sunday. When a fan favorite like Olsen leaves town unceremoniously, we're quick to remember the highs. Most notably, there was his long touchdown catch against the Seahawks in the first playoff game of last season. That's the G-Reg he always hinted at being, but I distinctly remember my reaction to that play was approximately "Olsen! Finally!".
Yes, what seems lost on the people tweeting today about how foolish the Bears are is that Greg Olsen was never a particularly good football player. He stretched the field only in theory, rarely practice. He made untimely drops. His blocking was sub-par. For such a physical specimen, I can't remember him ever breaking a tackle in the open field.
Of course, there's two sides to every failure. It would seem clear how to best utilize Olsen: run him deep and long down the seams. This rarely happened before the arrival of offensive coordinator Mike Martz last season, and it certainly didn't happen with Martz in charge. Martz is tight end alergic, or rather, believes their value lies more in blocking than pass catching. Blocking was never the name of Olsen's game, though, to the player's credit, he did whatever was asked of him by the coaching staff last season -- even playing a fair amount of fullback. The Bears did Greg Olsen no favors, this much cannot be disputed. But at a certain point, a star is a star, and Olsen never forcibly made his way to the upper echelon the way every fan thought he would.
So yes: Greg Olsen was, at best, an average tight end. But when talking about the *trade*, and not the public's overblown reaction, I do have a question for Bears decision makers: why? As I detailed yesterday, the window with this team is closing. They made the NFC Championship Game last season and came moderately close to winning, despite laughably playing three quarterbacks. It is not a team set up to win in 2013 or 2014. So even if Olsen never fit into Martz's system, and even if the Bears had no intention of re-upping his contract after the season ended, keeping Olsen as an all-in measure for this upcoming season would appear to be a no-brainer. A third round pick is a decent value, particularly when the Bears were resigned to losing him for nothing after the season, but 2012 shouldn't even register in Jerry Angelo's mind. This season is the Bears' best chance to win, and they should have done whatever it takes to give themselves the best chance to do just that. The Bears did not get better by trading Greg Olsen for a third round pick. They got worse. That's nonnegotiable, regardless of your opinion of Olsen or replacements Des Clark and Kellen Davis.
Other questions persist: why is Mike Martz -- who did nothing last season to prove he should be here to stay -- getting roster input? Why not get creative with Olsen and try him at receiver? Why not let him play out his rookie contract when the team is sitting so pretty cap-wise? For sanity's sake, these questions are best left alone. This is where we're at now: much like Michael Haynes and Curtis Ennis, Cade McNown and Rex Grossman, the Bears have another first round bust to add to the list, and his name is Greg Olsen.