Cedric Benson, Kyle Orton Enjoying Post-Chicago Renaissance

Cedric Benson spent a lot of time on his back in Chicago. Now he's (statistically) the best running back in the NFL in 2009.

Cedric Benson is leading the NFL in rushing with 487 yards on 111 carries.  Kyle Orton has completed 63 percent of his passes, thrown for 7 touchdowns and his only interception went to Randy Moss.

So, how are the Bears only 3-1.  Oh, that's right.  Neither plays for Chicago anymore.

Despite said 3-1 mark to open the season, GM Jerry Angelo and head coach Lovie Smith are taking some heat for letting these two walk the plank.  Those coming from that angle have misplaced their anger.

Brandon Jacobs is among the late-round running backs to have out-produced Cedric Benson. Both were members of the 2005 NFL Draft class.

If you want to blame Angelo and Smith, just take a look at the players they missed on in the 2005 draft in which they chose Benson with the No. 4 overall pick in the first round and Orton with pick No. 106 in the fourth round.

The first round was littered with busts including Alex Smith, Troy Williamson and Mike Williams.  The jury is still out on Benson and Braylon Edwards.  Same can be said about Adam "Pacman" Jones -- but that would be a different kind of jury.

As for some of the misses, the Bears can look at Pro Bowlers such as offensive tackle Michael Roos (41st pick), linebacker Lofa Tatupu (45th pick), Nick Collins (51st pick) and stud wide receiver Vincent Jackson (61st pick).  The misses continue in the third round as running back Frank Gore (65th pick), defensive end Justin Tuck (74th pick) have panned out to be Pro Bowl players.

If you're brave enough to look at the fourth round players that have gone on to play well, continue reading.  That is where the Bears selected Kyle Orton with the 106th overall selection in the draft.  The following players came off the board in succession:
  • RB Marion Barber III (Dallas -- 109th)
  • RB Brandon Jacobs (New York Giants -- 110th)
  • WR Jerome Mathis (Houston -- 114th)
  • S Kerry Rhodes (New York Jets -- 123rd)
  • RB Darren Sproles (San Diego -- 130th)
Bears draft picks that season not named Orton and Benson included Mark Bradley (39th), Airese Curry (140th), Chris Harris (181st) and Rod Wilson (220th).  The most productive player to stay on the Bears and make a name for himself was an undrafted free agent by the name of Robbie Gould.

As for Benson and Orton, there is a truly simple explanation why their stocks have skyrocketed since leaving town.


Bears fans should have seen this coming.  After being drafted with the team's first round pick, Benson wept and talked the talk as he seemed primed to be the next great Bears running back.  He was coming off great years at the University of Texas, a school known for producing productive NFL backs.  Crazy.  But productive.

But Benson didn't walk the walk as he and his agent Eugene Parker engaged themselves in a lengthy hold out.  When it came to his run in Chicago, it was all about money for Cedric.  The Bears might have been better off leaving $17 million worth of singles at the doorstep of Pacman Jones.  Benson showed his true colors in the team's Super Bowl loss against Indianapolis, where Benson suffered a tweak injury and never returned.  Not because he was unable to, but because he was unwilling to. 

Then, when the Bears were willing to give him a second chance, he would have rather partied on a boat with several attractive single white females.  And his mother, of course.  The off-the-field issues and the lack of production on the field was the perfect storm which led Angelo to launch Benson to the stratosphere.

With his talent and checkered past, he was meant to be a Bengal.  The only difference with Benson now is that he wants to play football.  You can hear it in his post-game interviews, but you can really see it on the gridiron.  He finishes runs now like he did in Texas.  And he actually executes pass blocks.

Maybe he and Pacman did have a go or two at the club, for Benson is playing like someone looking for a hefty payday.

Kyle Orton couldn't beat out Rex Grossman for the No. 1 QB gig, now he's a star? How did this happen?

As for Orton, I'm still confused.

His defenders will say that he has better talent around him.  That argument will fall upon my deaf ears.

Some will say Orton is benefiting from playing with a great defense.  It's not as if he didn't play with a great defense in Chicago, who allowed a league-low 202 points in 2005 when Orton was the starter for most of the season and posted a 10-5 record as a starter.  It's not like he didn't play with talented teams either, as Orton was around for both of Chicago's playoff runs.

In the end, it comes down to this.  Orton couldn't beat out Rex Grossman for the starting QB job.  Because of that, Orton never reaped the benefits of a 13-3 season that helped catapult the Bears into the 2006 Super Bowl.  That is because at that time, Orton was not more talented than Grossman.  Look at the numbers, they might as well have been the same guy.

That is why Jay Cutler is the Bears' starting quarterback while Orton was shipped out to Denver and Grossman sent to exile.

And no one should be complaining about Cutler's play in Chicago.  He has led two come-from-behind wins against two solid NFL ball clubs as he has lived up to expectations, especially in the guts of the game in the fourth quarter.  And since the season-opening debacle, Cutler has thrown for 624 yards and 7 touchdowns (plus 1 rushing TD), while only throwing one pick.

There is plenty of football to be played this year, and there is a chance that Orton and Benson return to earth.  Benson will get his chance against the Bears in Week 7 in Cincinnati.  But unless Cutler and Orton square off in the Super Bowl, Orton's success in Denver doesn't matter to me -- nor should it matter to Bears fans.