Devin Hester, the greatest kick returner in NFL history, told the Chicago Tribune one day prior to Super Bowl XLVII that he was looking for a fresh start.
Think Jacoby Jones’ performance on Super Sunday further stoked Hester’s flames of desire for a change of scenery?
Jones’ riveting performance Sunday, in which he set a new Super Bowl record with 290 combined yards, including a 108-yard kickoff-return TD and 56-yard receiving TD, is a tremendous example of how a player can quickly go from goat to glory.
Remember, Jones was run out of Houston last offseason by Texans fans wielding pitchforks, following his horrid performance against who other than the Ravens, last postseason.
A simple change of scenery has meant all the difference for the once-maligned Jones.
He easily could have been named Super Bowl MVP for his heroic effort Sunday. He is undoubtedly one of Baltimore’s more unsung contributors in 2012, with three return TDs during the regular season, before his memorable TDs against Denver and San Francisco in the postseason.
There are two lessons to take from all of this.
One: Roger Goodell might have designs on eliminating the kickoff from NFL games, but until then, it’s quite obviously alive and well. There is little question what type of impact an explosive return man like Jones can have on a game: At the time, Jones’ 108-yard explosion seemed like nothing more than the final nail in the Niners’ coffin, but it ended up being imperative to Baltimore’s Super Bowl celebration.
Two: Be careful what you wish for, Bears fans. Living in Chicago, I can’t tell you how many times I have heard sports talk radio hosts and callers playing the role of Texans fans, trying to run Hester out of Chicago.
I get it. He has been a shadow of his former self returning kicks the past few seasons, spending much more time dancing and making moves horizontally than finding a crease and exploding upfield.
He has been an unmitigated disaster as a receiver (I fault former GM Jerry Angelo and head coach Lovie Smith as much as anyone for this).
Even so, I assure you, Jones looked just as bad during much of his tenure in Houston. Yet, what do you think Texans fans were feeling while watching his redemption song in the Super Bowl?
It says here the Bears will wind up regretting it if they ship Hester out of town this offseason.
Besides, doesn’t the arrival of Marc Trestman signify a fresh start? Maybe the permanent removal of Hester from the offense — and a move to solely focusing on helping him return to greatness as a return man — will distance him enough from Jay Cutler to make him happy?
There is little doubt in my mind that 31 teams took notice of Ozzie Newsome’s low-risk, ridiculously high-reward move to sign Jones, after the incredible impact he had all throughout the 2012 season for the Ravens.
Thus, the Bears are likely to receive some intriguing phone calls on Hester’s services. But unless they are completely blown away, I think they should focus on making Hester happy while keeping him in Chicago.
Jones needed a new city to reach his full potential. Hester might just need his role redefined to get back to impacting the game as a returnman like no one else before him.