In the wake of the NFL Draft, it is clear now that the Chicago Bears and the Chicago Park District must come together and install artificial turf at Soldier Field as soon as possible.
The playing surface has been a problem in the past, but both sides of the argument have always had a laundry list of excuses to not put in an appropriate, artificial field. Now, the time for fighting needs to end. The Chicago Bears have put together a team that needs, and deserves, better than the garbage grass Bears fans have become too accustomed to over the last few years.
Ready for some facts that are dangerously-close to hyperbole?
Jay Cutler is the best Bears quarterback since Sid Luckman.
This is a fact. In only 41 games, he is already seventh on the Bears all-time list for passing yards (9,259), and he's only 2,308 yards out of second in franchise history. He could, realistically, be second on the team's all-time passer list by Week 10 this year.
He deserves a better field.
Matt Forte is the best Bears running back since Neal Anderson.
This is also a fact. While he still doesn't have a contract offer that makes him happy, he's 623 yards behind Hall of Famer Gale Sayers for fourth in team history in rushing yards. Furthermore, he is averaging over 103 total yards from scrimmage per game over the first four seasons of his career (60 games). To put that into perspective, Walter Payton averaged 112 per game and Anderson averaged well under 100.
Forte's 2011 season was cut short by the turf. He's too good to continue running on the crap at Soldier Field.
The 2012 Bears are the best group of receivers in team history.
Bold statement? Perhaps. But let's look at this from a historical perspective.
Only 13 players in Bears history have reached 3,000 receiving yards with the team, and Marty Booker's 1,189 yards in 2002 ranks as the fourth-highest individual season in the team's history. Over the last five years, Brandon Marshall has averaged 1,188 yards receiving per season.
Add to Marshall the Bears' second round pick from Friday night, Alshon Jeffery. A good comparable for him in the NFL would be Plaxico Burress (before shooting himself and going to jail). He dominated the SEC while at South Carolina and should be a difference maker in the NFC North.
We haven't even mentioned Earl Bennett or Devin Hester yet, both of whom move from inappropriately prominent roles in the passing game to positions that make each more dangerous. Heck, Hester might be able to focus on being the best kick returner in the history of the NFL again because, for the first time in team history, the Bears actually have talented depth at the receiver position.
But they need, and deserve, better turf than the garbage currently on display at Soldier Field.
When was the last time the Chicago Bears could honestly boast about skill position players all over their offense? Perhaps the mid-1980s? And yet they'll spend another season running on quicksand that's been spray-painted green so the audience watching through their televisions can't tell how awful the field actually is.
There's one more reason the Bears and the CPD must upgrade the field now.
On Feb. 17, 2013, Soldier Field will reportedly host an outdoor college hockey double-header, featuring the Wisconsin vs. Minnesota and Miami (Ohio) vs. Notre Dame (and, possibly, two Blackhawks prospects). There isn't enough time between the end of (hopefully) a long playoff run and the middle of February for the field to be replaced, but installing a hockey rink on top of the disgusting field will only continue destroying what there is of turf at the great venue. Installing an artificial surface would make Soldier Field a better facility, and would lend itself to more great events on the shore of Lake Michigan like this incredible day of college hockey.
So, please, to the McCaskey Family and the Chicago Park District: Stop being cheap for a few minutes, put your differences away, and think about the championship potential of the Bears offense in 2012. Think about the potential for Soldier Field to host great outdoor events more often without destroying the playing surface. And consider the fans that have struggled through a spring filled with injuries to Marian Hossa and Derrick Rose.
Chicago wants, and needs, a healthy team winning games. And the Bears present a chance for something we haven't seen since the awful
concrete turf was in place in the 1980s.