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SportsMonday: Devin Hester's Risks & Rewards

Let's just set aside for now Jay Cutler's groin and Josh McCown's remarkable performance and the signing of Jordan Palmer and the 41 points the team scored in Washington on Sunday while still managing to lose as Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman watched from the sidelines helpless and hobbled as RG3 led his team on its last-minute winning drive.

We'll get to all that soon enough.

For now, let's step back to consider what happened with 6:15 left in the first half and Washington punting from their own 28. Australian-born Sav Rocca actually got off a boomer, a 53-yard kick that pinned Devin Hester to the left sideline at the Bears' 19. That's when The Ridiculous One made history.

Eighty-one yards later he was in the records books, tied with Deion "Prime Time" Sanders with 19 career touchdown returns. Hester will surely have the record to himself soon enough.

But Hester wasn't done. There was that pass . . . the one he threw. The one that was the kind of Hesterian play we'll also remember when he's gone.

Washington had just gone ahead 45-41 with 49 seconds left in the game. Kai Forbath kicked off to Bears wide receiver Joe Anderson - avoiding Hester - who fielded the ball at his own 17. Anderson ran backwards for two yards and then lateralled two yards behind him to Hester.

Hester then tossed a perfectly accurate ultra-lateral all the way back across the field to Anderson, who then returned the ball 25 yards to the Bears' 38, with 45 seconds left on the clock.

It was a remarkable heave. It was also a brutally bad idea.

Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis must have told Hester: "Take a look at this but if it isn't there, just hang onto the ball and do what you can with your return."

After all, there was still time enough left on the clock to get in an offensive series. And the Bears had a timeout. McCown had been on fire, finishing with 14-of-20 for 204 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and a quarterback rating of 119.6. He hadn't been sacked.

The Bears had to be looking to generate a decent return and then complete a few passes so they could take a few shots at the end zone.

It was not the time to fool around.

Now, maybe if there had only been, say 15 seconds left, then maybe Hester's under-pressure lateral to Anderson would have been a reasonable risk. Three times that much time actually remained.

But Hester doesn't hear conditionals. If a coach is thinking about giving a goofy play a try, Hester is going to run it no matter what.

And so a moment before he was going to be tackled, he turned and fired what could only be described as a bomb to Anderson. Miraculously, the perfect spiral found its intended receiver (and Hester isn't even the emergency quarterback; Earl Bennett is).

The only way the risk presented by this sort of play generates a potentially good enough reward is if Anderson is wide, wide open. Which he wasn't. Oh, he was open enough to make the catch and get a nice return, but not open enough to break the play into Washington's side of the field, much less take it to the house.

Then again, Devin Hester has never been about rational risk/reward scenarios. The Bears had to stop playing him on offense because he couldn't be counted on to run solid, simple routes for solid, simple gains. He could only do the big plays. And so now he only does returns, where the calculation is ultra-simple - try to catch the kick and then get the ball to the end zone.

When I say we'll remember both kinds of plays Hester made on Sunday when he's gone, I mean that in a sooner-than-you-think kind of way. The Bears probably won't keep Hester next year. There is a good chance they will need his roster spot for a younger player with potential to play both defense or offense and special teams. So fans need to enjoy him while they can, even if he still finds occasional ways to do unbelievably goofy things on the football field.


See also:
* Jay's Groin: Bears Bracing For Worst.

* McCown No McNown: Shines In Relief Role.

* Backup Backup: Bears Reportedly Sign Jordan Palmer.

* Adam Hoge: Trestman Still Gives Bears A Chance If Cutler Is Lost.

* Adam Jahns: Robbie Gould Agonizes Over Third-Quarter Miss.

* Dan Wiederer: Bears Defense Crumbles Without Briggs.

* SI: RGIII Pregame Speech Inspired Washington.

* Biggs: Packers Up Next.


Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.

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Posted on Nov 26, 2021