Upgrade at receiver is a need, not a want

February 23rd, 2011 - 9:10 am

Dan Pompei wrote a column in the Chicago Tribune in the past few days stating his opinion that wide receiver is a position of want, not need.

He then proceeded to pompously — sounds similar to his last name, doesn’t it? — explain the differences between the words “want” and “need” while citing specific real-world examples of the two.

“You need socks, health insurance and a toothbrush,” Pompei wrote. “You want designer gym shoes, a smart phone and a leather couch. I’m not sure a lot of Bears fans are getting this, because I keep hearing all this talk about needing a No. 1 wide receiver.”

If you’re going to try to prove a point by offering examples, those were the wrong ones to use, Danny. Nobody actually needs socks, health insurance or a toothbrush. People are living without those. Some better examples might have been oxygen, food and water.

But that’s beside the point. The real point is that people throw the term “need” around all too often and it doesn’t actually mean what they say.

Ever hear someone say they need a haircut? Or that they need a car wash? Or how about when they say they need a new cell phone when one of their calls drops off and the phone loses its signal?

None of these people actually need those things, and deep down all of them realize that, but they know that by fulfilling these “needs” — what you refer to as “wants” — their quality of every-day life will improve a notch.

Hence, we have the Bears wide receiver argument. Sure, the Bears could get by without adding a better wide receiver, but we all know that the chances of them winning a championship would improve should they fulfill that need.

So, Dan, rather than try to give Bears Nation a lesson about the English language and the meaning of the words need and want, why don’t you look at the meaning of what they’re clamoring about?

Pompei tries to claim that the trio of Devin Hester, Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett is good enough to get the job done and he brings in the opinion of a pro scout from a different team to help prove his point.

“Knox isn’t the biggest or strongest, but he’s tough and he has very good ball skills,” the scout said. “He can go get it and run away from people.”

What game is this scout watching? Knox is not a tough guy. He’s very much a wimp, and even if he were tough, his diminutive frame and lack of strength would get him thrown around like a rag doll.

And when the scout says, “He can go get it,” I sure hope he means that Knox can use his speed to run under a deep pass. Knox certainly doesn’t fight for the ball and the majority of Jay Cutler’s interceptions are intended for the Division II product. If the pass isn’t perfect and makes him adjust his route, Knox doesn’t “go get it” in that sense.

Pompei asks in his column: If Knox was a wimp, how did he end up with the fifth best average per catch in the NFL at 18.8?

Dan, it’s because he has great speed and agility and “that Culter guy” who is throwing him the ball has a cannon for an arm and can get the ball to him quickly. Most of Knox’s big catches come when he’s wide open, not when he’s got a player on his hip.

In other words, 18.8 yards per catch is not a qualifier to prove how tough he is.

Hester, meanwhile, is an athlete playing wide receiver. He’s not a receiver. Intelligence long ago precluded him from being a No. 1 receiver. That, and his lack of ability to run crisp routes and know when and where to break them off.

As for Bennett, he’s a dependable receiver with reliable hands and he made plays this season in clutch situations. He’s become a safety valve for Cutler and was able to pick up a lot of first downs on third-down pass plays.

But let’s be honest: his lack of size, strength and speed limit the amount of success he can have in the NFL. At best, he’s a third-down possession receiver. A role player, if you will, just like Knox and Hester.

A true number one receiver is a player who can do it all. He’s a guy who can make catches over the middle but also can stretch the defense on the outside. He’s a player with size and strength that will go up and fight for poorly thrown passes and either make a great catch or, at the very least, knock the ball down to prevent an interception.

Truthfully, there aren’t enough of these great players in the league to go around for all 32 teams, but to say the Bears don’t need to find an upgrade over Hester, Knox and Bennett is a highly inaccurate assessment of their talent and it would be gross negligence on the part of the Bears’ front office not to try.

Let me be clear that I’m not saying the wide receiver position is the Bears’ No. 1 priority. I’d say offensive line, defensive tackle, free safety and maybe even cornerback are all more important fixes.

But to get closer to winning a championship, upgrading the position is a need.