The Bears declined to resign Olin Kreutz over a difference of $500,000. Yes, the same Olin Kreutz who has started in over 180 games in a Bears uniform, who anchored the offensive line for years at center, and, most importantly, was an unquestioned leader in the Bears locker room. Out went the only capable center on the team, and in came malcontent wide receiver Roy Williams. These moves create possible locker room problems which may result in more losses this season.
Just looking at the football side of not bringing back Kreutz, many questions arise. First of all, how do you replace Kreutz's experience on a growing offensive line? The Bears have many young lineman who will be vying for starting spots, including J'Marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi, Chicago's projected starting tackles. On a reconstructed line, the crafty Kreutz would have been invaluable. Secondly, and maybe more importantly, Kreutz's departure leaves the Bears without a capable and experienced center. Roberto Garza and the newly signed Chris Spencer should split the snaps, but on a line that gave up 57 sacks last year, that may not cut it.
The most important quality that Kreutz possessed as a player was his leadership ability. He has long been a leader in the locker room, pushing his teammates to do better. He has also been vocal with the front office as well. After a disappointing 7-9 2010 campaign, Kreutz got into a heated arguement with General Manager Jerry Angelo, quoted as saying "Things need to change." What Olin was speaking of was a sense of entitlement, and an undisciplined attitude that had crept into the Bears organization. Lovie's refusal to call out his veteran players had led to an underachievement of a season by an underachieving and injured bunch of players. In 2011, Lovie's new message was one of accountability and results. Never in the old days would Tommy Harris have sat on the bench while Matt Toeina played defensive tackle.
These past tendencies make the recent moves by Chicago potentially destructive. Leaving the fold is a stand up guy, and entering the fold is Roy "Diva" Williams. Not only has his performance been poor (worst percentage of dropped balls among wide receivers last season), but he never stops talking. With a loose cannon quarterback in Jay Cutler and a coach who will never see a glass half empty even if it has a single drop in it, a diva wide receiver is the last thing the Bears need from a team chemistry perspective. There is a need for receiver talent, but not this receiver.
Maybe I am all wrong about this. Maybe Kreutz was too greedy, maybe Roy Williams has seen the light and will make beautiful music with his old coordinator, Mike Martz. But, on a team with a coach that expects his players to police themselves, leaders will have to emerge on offense. Putting a diva on a team with a leadership void is just a bad idea. Saving $500,000 and standing firm on a contract might make the Bears look good now. But, if they are a crumbling, undisciplined team by mid-season, the Bears may wish they had made that investment.
What's the Point is a column written by David Straple. Feel free to comment.