Biggs: Bears blew it with Jones, Benson
What was worse for the Bears?
Drafting Cedric Benson with the fourth pick of the 2005 draft or trading Thomas Jones to the New York Jets for a swap of second-round draft picks, a ball bag and a few kicking tees?
Those undecided perhaps can make up their mind Saturday afternoon when Benson and Jones square off in an AFC wild-card meeting at Paul Brown Stadium. Jones was a first alternate to the Pro Bowl after he rushed for a career-high 1,402 yards and scored 14 touchdowns in leading the potent Jets’ rushing attack. Benson was a second alternate after he rushed for 1,251 yards and six touchdowns despite missing two games with a hip injury and then being held out of the season finale last week at the Jets for precautionary reasons.
To think they couldn’t work together in the same backfield for the Bears in 2005 and 2006, and that now the Bears have Matt Forte, who had an impressive rookie season but slumped this year, falling short of 1,000 yards and averaging just 3.6 yards per carry.
Jones and Benson were doomed from the start in Chicago. Benson’s holdout as a rookie lasted 36 days and when he finally arrived, he declared that he would be ready to start by Week 2. Jones was one of the most popular players in the locker room and an established team leader, the best player on the offense. Benson was a loner with few friends. They didn’t carry for the efforts to have them split time and they didn’t care for one another with Jones taking a swing at Benson in practice one day. Benson suffered an injured shoulder in training camp in 2006, the result he said of overzealous defenders who didn’t care for him.
Separated, they’ve both flourished with their new teams. Jones has been one of the league’s best backs over the last three seasons, rushing for 3,833 yards and 28 touchdowns. Benson has revived his career in Cincinnati as a major cog in the offense there.
Because Benson has become a player, it’s hard to argue that drafting him No. 4 was a bigger error for Bears general manager Jerry Angelo. The Bears saw Benson blister them for a season-high 189 yards back in October. The trade of Jones to the Jets netted the Bears a move up in the second round. They traded their pick to the Jets and moved near the top of the round, a deal that led to them getting bust Dan Bazuin, a one-and-done defensive end. Giving away Jones has proved to be a more critical error, and it was done solely to get Benson on the field, a move that didn’t work in Chicago where he didn’t want to be and most had tired of his act.
“He’s good on his feet, good in the open field,” Benson told Geoff Hobson of the Bengals’ Web site. “I’m a lot downhill. We’d complement each other really (well). I’m sure a few people saw that in Chicago.’’
Benson said he’s become a better player because of his time spent with the Bears.
“There was some disagreement, I think, largely for him,” Benson told Hobson. “He had been on different teams and I think on those teams in a situation similar where a guy came in. In Chicago I guess he saw the same situation recurring. I don’t think so much it was toward me, it was toward the situation. It indirectly (spurred) a bad situation, a controversy between us. Now that we’re both not on their team and in different places and he’s doing great in New York and I’m doing well here, we were able to put all of that behind us and be cool.”
It’s turned out to be anything but cool for the Bears.
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