Now we reach the always anti-climactic end. There's usually not too much to talk about for the Bears special teams unit, because they're usually pretty spectacular. This year they finished as the 9th ranked special teams unit in the NFL, which gives you an idea of how solid their coverage units are since this was the first year of the Dave Toub Era where they didn't have a single punt or kick return TD. That stat alone is unbelievably impressive.
Next year things will undoubtedly be different without Toub, and I wish him well in Kansas City, but there are still plenty of strong performers left on the roster. As a returner I wouldn't make the mistake of assuming Hester's done, since we've all made the mistake before and he thundered back with great years in 2010-2011, but even if he is the team has a Pro Bowl kick returner in Eric Weems on the roster, and Earl Bennett has had great success in his career as a punt returner as well.
#9 Robbie Gould: 21/25 FG (20-29 YDs: 7/7. 30-39 YDs: 5/7. 40-49 YDs: 7/9. 50-59 YDs: 2/2), 33/33 PAT.
Robbie Gould is awesome. You don't need me to tell you that. Hopefully he doesn't get hurt again, because that really sucked. Last year he was a tad less accurate than usual (84% vs. 85.6% for his career), but shut up, it's Robbie Gould. Interesting stat: since Lovie found the balls to let Robbie regularly attempt field goals of greater than 50 yards in 2009, Robbie's made 13/15, including 8/8 in the last two years. Robbie Gould is awesome.
#10 Olindo Mare: 6/8 FG (20-29 YDs: 2/3. 30-39 YDs: 3/3. 40-49 YDs: 1/2), 7/7 PAT
If you want to know how awesome Robbie is, look at Olindo. He was an acceptable fill in, but it's never a good thing when your kicker shanks one from less than 30 yards (if you're wondering when the last time Robbie missed one of those was, it's never), but the worst thing is having to hold your breath any time he's kicking more than 40 yards. Olindo for his career has a seemingly respectable 81.3% conversion rate, but on kicks of greater than 40 yards, where kickers make their pay, he's converted just 66% for his career (Robbie: 72%). Goodbye, Olindo.
#8 Adam Podlesh: 81 punts, 3399 yds, 42.0 average
A year after setting a franchise record averaging 43.9 YDs per punt, Podlesh had another solid campaign. His predecessor, Brad Maynard, hadn't reached a 42 yard average since 2004, so the team made the right move to move on when they did. Pathetic stat: in two years Podlesh has had 89 and 81 punts for the Bears. In four years in Jacksonville (pre-Blaine Gabbert, but, still, fucking Jacksonville) he never had more than 72. That's goddamn depressing. Stop sucking, offense.
#14 Eric Weems: 13 returns, 231 YDs, 17.3 AVG, 1 punt return, 0 YDs.
Man, the new kick return rules suck. Sure, they seem to have had an actual impact as far as limiting concussions, but who cares about saving brain matter when guys like Eric Weems are struggling to provide the excitement they once did (career average of 24.8 YPR). In all honesty, Weems is a solid special teams player and I still can't figure out why he and Hester are both still on the roster if neither is going to be a contributor on offense.
#23 Devin Hester: 24 returns, 621 YDs, 25.9 AVG, 40 punt returns, 331 YDs, 8.3 AVG
Devin finished tenth in the NFL in kickoff return average, was middle of the pack in return average (although, of the four guys who returned at least 40 punts his 8.3 average was pretty much the norm, as the other three averaged 8.4, 8.7, and 10.2 YDs) and, yet, by all accounts, he was pretty much awful and is done. As I said, we've made the mistake of assuming Devin was done before, and yet he still had plenty of explosion left in him. Clearly the quality of his blocking tends to vary from year to year and has as much to do with his success as anything. It's not really worth criticizing how infuriating it is when he backpedals and loses yards, or how irritating it is when he fair catches a ball at the 7, because he did that in the years when he was returning six kicks for touchdowns, too. He's no different now than he was then, he's just not surrounded by the same guys and he certainly doesn't see the same opportunities.
With all of that, though, I'm still surprised, honestly , that he's on the roster, given his $2.9 million cap hit and the fact that his days as anything more than a role player are, finally, supposedly gone. I definitely don't think he'll be a Bear in 2014, and I'm okay with that. Not to disrespect the greatest kick returner of all-time, but the money would be better spent investing in an offense that can set up good field position for itself.