How bad does the Greg Olsen trade look?

January, 4, 2012
1/04/12
4:00
PM ET
Here's one way to think about Tuesday's news from the Chicago Bears: It all goes back to Greg Olsen.

Bear with me for a moment.

[+] EnlargeGreg Olsen
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesThe Bears received a third-round pick from the Panthers for Greg Olsen, who signed a four-year contract extension with Carolina.
(Sorry.)

General manager Jerry Angelo was fired because he ran a front office that was willing to trade Olsen because the Bears' current scheme placed low priority on tight ends. And offensive coordinator Mike Martz was sent away because he ran a scheme that, among other things, couldn't adequately incorporate a player of Olsen's unique skills.

Obviously, last summer's trade of Olsen is one of many flash points that led to what happened Tuesday. But now more than ever, I find his late-July departure from Chicago to be a tight illustration of what should never, ever, ever, never, ever happen in an NFL franchise.

Olsen was the Bears' first-round draft choice in 2007. He had the size of a tight end, but was faster than most, and had receiver-like ball skills that are heavily valued by most NFL teams. His career peaked in 2009, when he caught 60 passes for 612 yards and eight touchdowns, but his impact was limited in a Martz offense that mostly asked tight ends to block and excluded them from the kind of matchups Olsen had already shown he could beat.

His production dropped to 41 receptions in 2010, and with Martz set to return, Angelo couldn't justify extending Olsen's contract when he was destined to be a supplemental contributor. So Angelo traded Olsen to the Carolina Panthers, who promptly signed him to a four-year contract extension worth about $23 million and watched as he caught 45 passes for 540 yards and five touchdowns.

The Bears, meanwhile, had only one player catch more than 37 passes, and that was running back Matt Forte (52 receptions).

Martz committed the first cardinal sin in this episode by not building his scheme around the skills of his players. And Angelo committed the second, not only by presiding over that mistake but compounding it by taking his eye off the horizon.

Martz had turned down a contract extension entering the season, starting the clock on his eventual departure. As the general manager, Angelo needed to hedge on Martz's future and protect an asset that would be of value beyond the potential end of Martz's tenure. Every other coordinator in the NFL, including whoever takes the Bears' job, has a scheme that would use Olsen more than Martz did.

Coach Lovie Smith apparently believes that Kellen Davis could be a similar player, but after catching 28 passes in four seasons, Davis represents hope rather than serious projection. In the end, the Bears traded away one of their best players because he didn't fit a scheme that they summarily dumped five months later. That should never happen.

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