Chris Harris is a good man. In April, he made his second trip to Iraq, traveling with then teammate Israel Idonije and the Colts' Nick Harper. By all accounts he was loved by the rest of the players on the Chicago defense. I loved watching Harris play, he was a safety who, while not a great coverage guy, hit hard and played with reckless abandon. Other Bears fans disagreed. Regardless, the former 6th round draft pick was traded for a fifth round pick in 2008 and given a chance to start with the Panthers. The Panthers are now 4-2, Harris has been credited with four forced fumbles and a pick in those six games.
Todd Johnson, like Harris, was not a great coverage safety, but hit even harder than Harris. The Bears let Johnson walk as a free agent, and he signed with the Rams for a relatively modest 4 year, $4 million (or $3.9 million) deal. The Rams, in contrast to the Panthers, are horrible and Johnson's not been as big a part of St. Louis's team as Harris has been for the Panthers. Of course, the Rams are coached by Scott Linehan.
Cameron Worrell was also in the Bears secondary in last year's Super Bowl campaign, although he largely contributed on special teams. Worrell was allowed to walk and signed a relatively modest two-year, two million deal with the Dolphins. Injuries have depleted the Dolphins secondary and Worrell's been pressed into service as a starting safety and some of his coverage deficiencies have been exposed.
Harris, Johnson, and Worrell are not going to be mistaken for Hall of Famers and they were never going to be in the pantheon of Bears greats at the position -- in my lifetime, Mike Brown, Mark Carrier, Shaun Gayle, Dave Duerson, Gary Fencik -- but they did have one thing in common: they can tackle.
At least, they can tackle better than the sorry lot that now inhabits the starting lineup of the Bears secondary. Brandon McGowan was appropriately singled out during the television broadcast for his pathetic effort on one of OAP's long TD runs, but a breakdown of film will show how intimately involved McGowan, Danieal Manning, and Adam Archuleta were in each and every long touchdown play for the Vikings today. Archuleta, who cost the Bears a 6th round pick and is signed to a three-year $8.1 million contract, with $5 million guaranteed, (with the Bears said to have assumed the majority of the $5 million roster bonus that Archuleta was due prior to the start of this season), has been simply horrible (regardless of how his girlfriend looks).
Mike Brown got hurt and is out for the season. Kevin Payne got hurt and is out for the season. Archuleta has a broken hand (he couldn't tackle even with both good hands). These things might have had an impact, but the big difference was the decision by the Bears coaching staff and the front office to get rid of Harris, let Johnson and Worrell walk, and roll into the season with Archuleta, Manning, and McGowan. That decision has been fatal to the Bears season this year. The arrogance of thinking that Archuleta could return to form despite his horrible showing in DC... the arrogance of giving away a starting NFL safety to a NFC rival for a second-day draft pick... and the arrogance of thinking that Danieal Manning could be coached out of the deficiencies that he evidenced all last year are what has led to the sorry state of Bears defensive football that was on display today.
Bet Lovie wishes that he had Rivera to kick around these days.