Matt Forte is retiring after 10 NFL seasons with the Chicago Bears and New York Jets. His next stop should be a fierce debate over the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
On Wednesday afternoon, Matt Forte announced his retirement from the NFL. It was quiet, with little fanfare and barely more than a momentary blip on Twitter feeds.
The departure matched both the arrival in many ways the brilliant career. All were understated.
Forte leaves the NFL with 14,468 total yards, 9,796 coming on the ground. The former Tulane star amassed 75 touchdowns over his 10 campaigns, the first eight coming with the Chicago Bears.
With the news cycle having already moved on, the next time we’ll hear about Forte is 2023, when he’ll be eligible for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
While Forte doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the breath of other first-ballot enshrinees such as Walter Payton, Jim Brown and Barry Sanders, he deserves consideration throughout his tenure on the ballot.
Forte is 43rd on the NFL’s all-purpose yardage list. The 32-year-old ranks ahead of O.J. Simpson and John Riggins, and is only 239 yards behind Adrian Peterson, a sure-fire Hall of Famer. His 75 touchdowns are more than Larry Csonka and Earl Campbell’s totals.
For consistency, few do better than Forte. With the exception of his final season with the Jets, the versatile back amassed more than 1,000 total yards in every season he played. In 2014, Forte caught 102 passes while rushing for 1,038 yards and scoring 10 touchdowns.
The knocks on Forte are obvious, but they shouldn’t shut Canton’s doors on him. He never played in a Super Bowl and only reached two Pro Bowls, never making an All-Pro team. This was largely due to having Peterson in his conference for so many of his prime years, along with the national under-appreciation that comes for playing on middling teams.
To say that Forte is an easy choice for the Hall would be erroneous. The numbers are very good, but are they great? The pass-catching certainly was special, and the running was consistent, but is that enough to immortalize him next to those who define the game?
All of those are fair questions, and must be asked five years from now (and one suspects for years after that). If he never secures a gold jacket, Forte will certainly wind up in the Bears Hall of Fame.
If nothing else, Forte has earned a moment of recognition. The Louisiana native was fantastic with little fanfare, playing in relative obscurity despite a big city around him at both stops.
Forte’s career deserves more than a momentary news bulletin. It demands attention, something it never got nearly enough of.