Bernstein: Why Care What Forte Makes?

By Dan Bernstein- Senior Columnist

(CBS) Meet Matt Forte: America’s most popular one-percenter.

Here’s a guy who was offered a contract worth $6 million per year, with $13-14 million guaranteed, turned it down, and is now -– amazingly — the peoples’ proletariat. Amid international protests over the disparity between haves and have-nots, his quest for more is a cause célèbre.

It’s an amazing PR improbability, as Forte has avoided the “greedy player” label, despite the fact that he is demanding more money than the gobs he is being offered. That’s more the story, really, than a running back with no leverage outperforming his current contract on a slightly-better-than-mediocre team.

“Pay the man!!” read banners at games and mindless tweets from fans and teammates, betraying a stunning lack of understanding of where the leverage lies. The Bears were generous to make any offer to someone who is not an unrestricted free agent, particularly one who plays that position.

Running backs break down, either by traumatic injury they risk on every carry or tangible, accelerated erosion. Paying more than one needs for their services is dumb business.

And the Bears needn’t do anything, since they can just employ the franchise tag in consecutive years. That move would pay Forte a total of around $16 million guaranteed.

The message to Forte from Jerry Angelo, in essence, is this: “We think you are going to get hurt, and/or decline. If you want peace of mind, here it is. If that’s not enough money for you, you will eventually get paid if we’re wrong about your health and production (but we’re not).”

Pretty simple, right?

Why fans care about how much money Forte makes is a riddle to me. As long as he is performing, let him perform. There’s no need whatsoever for a fan to be concerned about his paycheck.

It so happens that he is playing brilliantly in an offense that is heavily reliant on him. He shouldn’t matter as much as he does, but he’s mattering competently and at times, spectacularly. The Bears are at no real risk of losing him, and can keep handing him the ball without being concerned about his heavy workload. He’s like a car at the end of a lease, with mileage to spare.

Some argue that locker room grumbling about Forte’s status is bad for the team, somehow making them less likely to win. That’s a canard. There are players on every team who want more money, and when the ball is in the air on Sunday nobody cares. Besides, even the outspoken players carrying water for Forte understand that he was offered an extension.

He could come up with a phantom injury, effectively staging a midseason holdout to make his absence felt acutely. The Bears rallying to support him would turn on a dime, even if that kind of gutsy move might have the disered effect. The understanding of the business side only goes so far.

What’s more, the players whining about an unfair system just blew their big chance at the bargaining table. Instead of crying after the fact about how teams can squeeze production out of players at low cost, show some backbone in trying to alter the mechanism.

Perhaps fans use this as a way to take misguided shots at Angelo, since they are rightfully unhappy with the job he’s done stockpiling talent. It’s the wrong way to do it, of course, since his choice to avoid unnecessary expenditure and risk should be lauded, not slammed. In any other business, a manager would be hailed for getting the company such value from an employee.

Or it could be just a convenient outlet for people who feel undervalued and underpaid at their own jobs, frustrated by bosses unwilling to recognize their contributions. They know the feeling, I guess, of seeing others do what they do, but pull in more money.

Those people will get what they negotiate, just like Matt Forte.

There must be some Wall Street executives scratching their heads right now, wishing they could run a 4.5, chip-block the six-technique, or execute the wheel route.

It appears that’s the best way to convince the common man that greed is good.

More from Dan Bernstein
  • Larry Horse's Arse

    Fans care out of an inherent sense of justice and basic decency.

    • Randy

      6m per year??? Thats what the League leading yds/play should just sign? And his teams MVP? No !@# way Forte signs for 6m/yr. He’s worth alot more than that! What does Peppers make?

      • Lee

        The price is only going to be escalated by competition. Peppers became a free agent, and multiple teams wanted to sign him, so the Bears had to open the wallet.

        NO ONE CAN COMPETE FOR FORTE’S SERVICES. The Bears have all the rights and will hold those rights until his wheels fall off. I feel bad for Forte, but it’s true. Value to the football team does not equal market value.

    • Jay Becker

      Justice? What the? Fine. Fire up and bat signal and let the Dark Knight sort this out. I suspect he won’t show up.

    • Bill

      He was offered a contract…shut up already arse

    • Bronzo

      We said Larry I agree..I stated below it’s about doing what’s right. I know the Bears have all the leverage.. but again a happy employee is a productive employee.

      And don’t kid yourself and think other players don’t notice this. people are human

      • Spoon

        Not always, just look at Chris Johnson…

      • Bronzo

        U got me there Spoon…Sometimes it doesn’t always work out

  • Satan

    Very nicely said, Dan.

    Anybody see PTI today? Wilbon literally took both Forte’s and the org’s side within about 30 seconds of one another… that dude’s such a hack it makes me sick. And he never stops making everything about himself, who he knows, who he likes, who he roots for, etc… he’s about as embarrassing a representation of Chicago as Jim Belluschi.

  • The Docta

    “Disered.” Synapse duress is presenting. Danno, don’t I’m right/You’re wrong your way through this warning sign.

  • The Docta

    “Belluschi.” Ditto to The Prince of Darkness. (Not that both of the aforementioned aren’t Steaming Piles.)

    • The Docta

      To forestall a malpractice suit, I clarify: Mike Wilbon and Jim Belushi have the wavy lines draw around their cartoonish selves. Bernstein and The Devil are Fitness Friends of mine.


    Like many fans, I’m guilty of the “PAY THE MAN” stance involving the Bears & RB Matt Forte after all the on-field production he’s done and will continue to do for the much-maligned offense. However, I’m starting to think that even if Forte is franchised, he’s going to get his money one way or the other next year. His current salary of $550,000 is a bargain by NFL standards, but I certainly would take a pay hike of over $8 million myself if I were in Forte’s position. I think what the Bears are doing isn’t cheap, but it appears to be a smart move on their part.

  • Ryno

    I bet Matt Forte does not care one bit about what any of these “pay the man” saps make. It is amazing that a player that makes more in a year than most make in a lifetime is the focus of these “fans” when the Bears reasoning is plain as day.

    • bob

      You are really dumb, for real.

      • Satan


  • Chris

    I think the key here is “as long as he keeps performing, leave well enough alone”. I think fans in general don’t care what these guys make and I’d guarantee most of them don’t but when payroll issues affect performance, then fans get involved.

    The problem here is the media. if you guys would shut up about it and quit asking him questions, I’m sure it would all go away, but whilst he’s asked, I’m sure he’ll give his opinions.

    Let’s face it. The Bears are cheapskates and while they have a business to run, at the same time they need to keep their talent motivated and competitive. if they don’t, they might as well trade him now and get some draft picks.

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    I think a lot of guys already said it, here, Dan.
    The fact that he turned down the extension is unfortunate.
    But, I believe you’ve said it before. They’ve already got your money, why do you care where it goes?
    Forte deserves something. It’d make me feel better knowing the guy isn’t getting pulverized for nickels. All Chicago teams set piles of money on fire (on batting coaches???), why not set one on fire for someone who is fun to watch.
    Or, start refunding the fans (oh, yeah, it’s a revenue sharing league. Somebody has to pay the Browns).

  • PTC

    Worst case scenario and he goes from 600k to over 8 million a year while playing under a contract he signed, gladly, as a rookie for the Chicago freaking Bears. Oh the injustice of it all! I dislike Angelo for the most part, but well played ya twerp.

  • Bronzo

    it’s about doing what’s right. We all know the bears ‘own” the rights to Forte for the next 2 years. Why not have a happy and productive employee insted of just prooductive. Eventually that productivity is going to go down when you have disgruntled employee.Every national broadcast backs Forte so this isn’t going away if anything it’s going to be a bigger issue the longer it persists.

    I know that the Bears have all the leverage but people are human…

    • bill

      Why is it right to ruin a team to benifit one player. I am a fan of the TEAM not one replaceable RB. I would ratehr the bears go teh green bay or patriots route and keep getting RBs cheap, paying the man will turn the bears into the vikings or the titans….I hate rooting for losers.

    • D.O

      Bears can’t change their offer until the end of the season when the next round of negotiations start. If they cave mid-year (now), it will set a bad precedence for future contract issues.

      I’m still hopeful they’ll come to an agreement in the offseason. He’ll be a restricted free-agent, which will allow Angelo to convince the McCaskey’s that the Bears now need to offer him more money.

      I just hope its not a long 6 year type deal. Year 5 & 6 he’ll probably be too beat up (unless he’s another genetic freak ala Peppers, Urlacher).

  • Harry's Phlegm

    Wrong Bernsie. Sports business is not a typical business. Wall Street brokers and bankers don’t literally risk their lives in their endeavors. They don’t get pulverized every day (practice) or week (games). Also, most business are concerned with quarterly or yearly profits. Sports business is a public trust built over many years because of it’s relationship with the community which leads to goodwill and overall value of the franchise.

    You made the wrong analogy but you sure sounded smart doing it. Now go home and get your shinebox.

    Pay the man!

    • Bronzo

      Harry that was priceless!! Spot on! Loved the Goodfellas reference.

      • Harry's Phlegm

        Thanks Bronzo. Bernsie uses alot of fancy words, terms and analogies to sound smart. And he is.

        But I’m smarter (smile).

        Have good day.

  • Spoon

    I’m confused how they didn’t try to do what was right by offering him a multi-year multi-million dollar deal that he turned down? I want to see the guy get paid as well, but to claim the Bears didn’t try to pay him is simply wrong.

    • Harry's Phlegm

      That’s correct Spoon and I agree. But it was below market value and not in line with a couple of guys new contracts who were, or are, not as good as him (e.g., DeAngelo Williams).

      It’s a game of chicken and he (Forte) lost…at least so far. Bears have all the leverage.

      • Chris in Scottsdale

        That’s the problem – the other teams overpaid for production, so now it makes the Bears look like the bad guys.

  • Crest Hill King

    I would like to be Forte making now $800K and the ability to turn down $13-14M. Tough choices for him. I need to worry about my mortgage, does anyone care about me?

    • Spoon

      No, because you dont do something that 100,000,000 people watch every Sunday… this is always the dumbest statement in these discussions.

    • Harry's Phlegm

      Agreed Spoon. I almost wonder if that was tongue-in-cheek. I knew that argument would come up. Market value is a different animal than relative salary.

      If I was Johnny The Pipefitter and Bobby the Pipefitter was making way more than me and I was outperforming him and he was less skilled I would have a problem with that.

      Some actors make $20 million a film because of the revenue he/she creates.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        Excelklent H.P. (and Spoon).
        Right on the money (pun intended).

        For what it is worth, I have been signing the front of paychecks for 26 years.
        I have never gone wrong (in the big picture) by doing what I felt was the right thing.

  • bobstone

    If there’s anyone who knows about being overpaid for what he does, it’s Bernstein. I love it when he talks down to all the fans. He’s such a man of the people.

  • meesohawnee

    cry me a river. MF… Here, for a small example, we have the folks at MF Global out of jobs because some corrupt criminal was allowed to run wild and nobody does a F*&n thing.?!!? Id suggest reading a paper matt. Reality. You dont live in it like everyone does on this board. Bernstein always says its all in the negotiation. You lost it. Live with it.

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  • Shut Up

    I don’t get it. Is Forte supposed to pretend he is happy when asked? He hasnt went out of his way to say anything about it. A lot of comments saying he is whining but he is just answering a question honestly.

  • Shut Up

    Also why does Bernstein always try to convince people about something.
    He sure needs some surgery to get that stick out of his ass.

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