There are many points in the past decade people could point to as the starting moment when things went wrong for the Chicago Bears. Hiring Marc Trestman to replace Lovie Smith. Jay Cutler’s knee injury in the NFC championship. Some though look to the 2012 NFL draft as a particular point where things got bad. It came when new GM Phil Emery used his first-ever draft choice on Boise State linebacker Shea McClellin.
It was a pick that came out of nowhere. Not a single expert saw it coming largely because McClellin was a late-riser who didn’t really fit the type of defense the Bears ran. Combine that with other, more proven defenders on the board? Yeah, people were more than a little skeptical about it. They were soon proven correct. McClellin was a disaster in Chicago, failing to become the heir apparent to Julius Peppers that Emery envisioned.
This begged the question. Could the Bears have done better with the benefit of hindsight? According to Gil Brandt of NFL.com, the answer is yes. With a second chance in a 2012 re-draft, they end up scoring star middle linebacker Bobby Wagner.
“Original pick: Shea McClellin, DE.
Wagner was actually drafted by: the Seahawks in Round 2 (No. 47).
McClellin never found his niche in Chicago before leaving for New England. So here, the Bears instead go with Wagner, who becomes the heir apparent to Brian Urlacher. “
Chicago Bears would’ve had their Urlacher heir
Brian Urlacher was still firmly entrenched as the starter going into that season. However, he’d suffered a catastrophic knee injury at the end of the 2011 season. One that many worried would end up robbing him of the speed and athleticism that had made him so great. Those fears were later proven correct. If they’d been able to see just how good Wagner was, it would’ve been a seamless transition to a new era.
Wagner is a five-time All-Pro for the Seattle Seahawks, having helped them win the Super Bowl in 2013. A consummate leader with outstanding athleticism and instincts. If he were a couple of inches taller he would’ve gone in the 1st round for sure. Maybe his presence might’ve made the defensive collapse in 2013 and 2014 after Urlacher retired less severe.
Either way, it’s fascinating to speculate about.