Zuba: Forte Saying All The Wrong Things

By Sam Zuba-

(CBS) By now, we’ve seen both sides of Matt Forte.

We’ve seen the “team-first” Forte, and the “me-first” Forte.

Before the start of the 2011 season, it was clear Forte deserved a raise. He had outgrown his rookie contract, and, as is such in the NFL, deserved more guaranteed money.

The Bears, too, saw this and offered the running back a contract worth a reported $14 million in guaranteed money. Forte felt he deserved more, so the two sides decided to put contract negotiations on hold. Forte played out the rest of his contract, earning his first-ever Pro Bowl nomination.

When the negotiations between the Bears and Forte began, it was hard to not admire the attitude and approach the running back took. Rather than engage in a public outcry for more money, he decided to let his on-field performance speak for itself.

That’s what sparked the “Pay Forte” movement. Fans saw Forte’s team-first approach, so they lobbied for him.

When the Bears slapped the franchise tag on him, things began to change.

Right or wrong, Forte was upset. The signing of backup running back Michael Bush to a four-year deal worth $7 million in guaranteed money added even more fuel to the fire that had been burning inside.

“There’s only so many times a man that has done everything he’s been asked to do can be disrespected!” Forte Tweeted after the signing of Bush. “Guess the GOOD GUYS do finish last.”

Forte’s right – he did everything he was asked to do. He showed up, worked hard and achieved success.

And there’s nothing wrong with him wanting more than the $7.7 million he’s set to earn in 2012 via the franchise tag. He’s earned the right to negotiate the terms of his contract.

Forte’s downfall was when he let those internal frustrations become external outbursts. The backlash from that single Tweet has painted Forte as a greedy, selfish player, discontent with the roughly 1,400%  raise he was offered.

Arguably Forte’s biggest mistake was a tactical one, though.

He should have taken the long-term deal that was offered to him before the start of last season. Forte turned down the opportunity to make a reported $6 million in 2011 because he wanted more guaranteed money in the long run. Instead, he chose to play out the final year of his deal, earning $600,000.

Now, he’s lost that year and the money he could have made. He’ll never get that back. Even if he can squeeze a few more million out of the Bears in a long-term deal, he’s lost that money from 2011.

Running backs only have a few solid years of production before age, injury and ultimately ineffectiveness force them out of the league.

Still, the Bears reportedly have a “strong” offer on the table – one Forte would be wise to accept.

“I think not only do we appreciate him and have told him so, but I think the offer we’ve made him shows that, too,” Bears CEO Ted Phillips told the Sun-Times. “Now, different people can disagree on the ultimate value, but we feel we’ve made a strong offer to him, and are still hopeful he accepts it.”

So, Forte, whether or not you take the deal is your choice, but if you don’t, keep the negotiations – and your discontentment – quiet.

No one wants to hear you’re unhappy with your $7.7 million salary.

sam zuba Zuba: Forte Saying All The Wrong Things

Sam Zuba

Sam is the Sports Content Producer for CBSChicago.com. Before earning a degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, he spent two summers covering the Kansas City Royals and the Chicago Cubs for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @SamZuba and read more of his columns here.

  • The nudnik

    Mr. Zuba,

    Does the characterization by Mr. Phillips of the offer by the Bears as “strong” automatically make it so?

    Hindsight is 20/20. It may be that Mr. Forte would make more overall had he taken the offer last year. Perhaps he did not anticipate the franchise tag and thought he would have a crack at the open market this year.

  • dave

    If he didn’t see the franchise tag he should fire his agent then. He knew it would come. In the Bears eyes it is strong, and in past they have paid their players. Maybe not top of the market deals, but somewhere in the neighborhood of fair. He may get franchised next year as well, the Bears have the right to do so, if the players didn’t like it they should have tried harder to have that removed from the CBA.

  • Tacobender

    Then again, he has gotten bad advice. He should have known they would tag him, or aware of the possiblity. He knew he could get tagged multiple times. He needs to realize that the money Lynch, Johnson, and Williams got paid stupid money, and those franchises will be worse for it. Fact is Matt got hurt and missed games. He’s proof that you cannot overpay backs anymore. He went and played in the pro bowl anyway risking his next season, not smart on his part. That game wasn’t important to his career or the Bears as a team. So the Bears are finally acting like a professional football business. Matt can take the offer, or not and collect 7.7million and if he gets hurt, and his career ends, live on the 7.7 the rest of his life. Or, come to his senses counter with 15-16 million guaranteed, and up his profile around the city, start endorsing things he will be a bear for bit after that, there’s money out there for a good personable chicago athlete.

  • Nazey

    “So, Forte, whether or not you take the deal is our choice, but if you don’t, keep the negotiations – and your discontentment – quiet.”

    Why? Why can’t he voice his discontent? Since when are we supposd to be obedient little helpers who should let ownership have their way if we feel they are shortchanging us? History shows that progress is ONLY made when we voice our discontent. The amount of money has nothing to do with it.

  • Tacobender

    It’s what he said and how he said it. “Disrespected” is he a moron? The respect you enough to tag you and pay you 7.7 million to carry the ball. He was not smart to do it publicly, he has the right to yes, but in ths economy, almost nobody wants to hear it. I am all for get what your market is. He’s confused as to what his market is or does he not watch the playoffs and superbowl? Since when is it the obligation of an business to set you up for life while you work for it?? 14 million guaranteed over the next 4 years. He has a degree, and he will most likely have the capital to do many things with that money if he’s smart. Why should the bears pay him more than he’s worth to carry the ball for the next four years. If he signs and gets a career ending injury the next day he still gets 14 mil. and the Bears are out the money. But why would you want to look at that? Many people retire on much much less. He takes the offer he has options for his future. Not the Chicago Bears job to make sure his future after the Bears is secure.

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