Devin Hester told the world today what most of us had assumed for a while: he won't be back as a Bear next year. The greatest kick returner in NFL history will wear another uniform next year, and, well, that's OK.
When these things happen people tend to take extreme positions. There will be those who will react to Devin's departure the same way they reacted to Olin Kreutz or maybe even Urlacher's. There'll be some talk about loyalty and disrespect and the rest. Others will completely write off Devin and his contribution, will say he has nothing left to offer, that it was right to move on.
I obviously fall more into the latter group. Devin, despite some pretty impressive returns last year including the TD against Washington, obviously isn't the guy that he used to be. That's not really an insult, because it's kind of hard for anyone to be the greatest goddamn kick returner in the history of the game forever. I'd still take him over just about any kick returner in the league, but I understand and agree with the team realizing they have more important places to spend their money than a specialist.
But damn, he was really something for awhile, wasn't he? Even now, after the touchdowns and the return average started to decline, you never really felt like you could take your eyes off the screen when the ball was in the air and headed towards him, did you? The Bears have been a lot of things in my lifetime, but up until this year's offense, I can't really say they had anyone other than Devin who was truly electrifying.
In a way, Devin was the victim of his own success. A guy that dominant on special teams, with that kind of speed, can't just be left alone. The Bears owed it to Devin and to themselves to see if he could be something more. Of course, we know that experiment was largely a failure. It's pretty sad that after he played the position full-time for five seasons, you can think of far more exciting moments of Devin Hester, Kick Returner, than Devin Hester, receiver. His failures at one led us to sometimes downplay his successes at the other, and that's ludicrous. We owed him more than that. His career shouldn't really be followed with a "yeah, but he couldn't do More." He deserves to be remembered the way he said it himself:
"I am a kick and punt returner, but at the same time, I'm the best to ever do it."
It's a shame we ever thought that wasn't enough. It was, Devin. Good luck. Thanks for the memories.