Will the Hall of Fame be his next stop?

Chicago Bears, New York Jets, NFL

Matt Forte has retired after 10 seasons in the NFL and his next stop should be Canton, Ohio as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Former Chicago Bears and New York Jets running back Matt Forte retired on Wednesday after a decade in the NFL. Forte spent the last two seasons with the Jets after he was a cap casualty in Chicago where he established himself as one of the best dual-threat running backs in modern NFL history.

Things didn’t work out with the Jets where he had 1,750 yards from scrimmage in his two campaigns but his time with the Bears makes him an intriguing candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

A Hall of Fame-caliber career was not envisioned when the Bears took the Tulane running back with the No. 44 pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, but Forte had a long history of proving his doubters wrong. Forte went the small school route where he ran for more than 2,000 yards in his final season with the Green Wave but was the sixth back taken in the loaded 2008 draft that saw Darren McFadden, Jonathan Stewart, Felix Jones, Rashard Mendenhall and Chris Johnson selected in the first 24 picks.

Forte made an immediate impact on the Bears when he set many Bears rookie records after running for 1,238 yards and eight touchdowns and added 63 receptions for 477 yards and four more scores through the air. For the next seven seasons, that was the type of production that Forte delivered for the Bears, establishing himself as one of the most consistent and reliable players at the position.

Forte is one of nine players in NFL history with at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage in their first nine years. The other players to do that: Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Thurman Thomas, Curtis Martin, Marshall Faulk, Herschel Walker, Ricky Watters and Warrick Dunn.

He was a favorite among the fantasy football community because of his pass-catching ability. In many ways was Le’Veon Bell before Le’Veon Bell because of Forte’s patience that allowed his linemen and fullbacks to set up their blocks and Forte’s gliding-like running style allowed him to average 4.2 yards per carry for his career.

The one big knock on Forte’s game was his lack of rushing touchdowns. He finished with 54 career scores and never had a double-digit touchdown season. Forte was often overlooked and underrated as a result of his time spent in the end zone but there were few players who could shoulder the load as a ball carrier and a receiver. What he lacked in short-yardage scores, he more than made up for it with his ability to move the chains with one eight-yard catch after another.

I think Forte deserves a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his eight impressive years in Chicago. Forte finishes his career with 9,796 rushing yards and 554 receptions for 4,672 yards and 21 scores. His 14,468 yards from scrimmage ranks 28th in the history of the NFL, which is more than Hall of Fame running backs, Franco Harris, John Riggins, O.J. Simpson, Joe Perry and Lenny Moore. And it’s more than future Hall of Famer, Adrian Peterson, who is widely considered the best running back of his generation.

Clearly, Forte has the numbers to merit a discussion for the Hall of Fame. However, I fear he may fall in the category of the Hall of Very Good and get left out of the hallowed halls of Canton.

As much as I loved his time in Chicago and respect him for the man he is, Forte likely falls in the Watters, Walker, Dunn, Tiki Barber, Brian Westbrook category. Very good running backs but not quite the best of the best at the position.

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