In a thread regarding Ka'Deem Carey and his fit as the Bears #2 RB several of us including; Ski, Ric, Bear Jim, JJ-30, and myself began to debate Matt Forte's abilities and status as an "elite" type NFL RB. Stats were presented which showed that Forte often gains much of his yardage on a few longer runs while often failing to gain significant yardage or even loses yardage on others and I for one don't deny that. But if you analyzed the runs of many other great RBs including Gale Sayers and Barry Sanders you'd find somewhat that same. They're known far more for their big plays than they are for grinding it out 4-5 yards or more at a time on almost every play like Walter Payton did. Ski pulled up some interesting stats on this which I commented on and we debated. In that same thread and JJ-30 also chimed in with his thoughts. In that regard I'll tip my hat to him and refer to some of his thoughts as well because yes, he does know a little something about NFL RBs, so IMHO his viewpoints have a special merit to them and should be considered with all due respect. I'm not going to reprint them but rather refer to them a bit in the rest of this article. No one is saying Matt Forte is not a great RB, least of all me. I love the guy. But what I'm attempting to do here is validate in exactly what ways he is and isn't an "elite" RB and what his true value to the Bears is. I'm not expecting agreement. In fact I'm actually trying to stir up some debate which is at least in part what I feel these original articles we as members write should be for. So have at it. No one is gonna hurt my feelings by substituting their own. How do you all see Matt Forte as an NFL RB? Here's my thinking on it. I have to agree with JJ on this at least as far as saying that Matt Forte isn't elite in the sense of a runner who can make something out of nothing as a Barry Sanders or Gale Sayers could. Forte needs space to maneuver in to escape a tackle or a hole or gap to run through. He seldom if ever creates his own and he's not a power runner who can move the pile or carry tacklers for much extra yardage. He's also not the kind of back you can depend upon to get you two or three tough yards on third down or at the goal line virtually every time you hand him the ball like Walter Payton could. He doesn't have that same close area elusiveness and even though he's a much bigger back he still lacks Walter's power, explosiveness and determination and his tremendous leaping ability. But what Forte does have that few other current NFL backs have is a very special package of skills that fit very well into the WCO style offense Marc Trestman runs and which Ron Turner also ran at one time. Like Walter Payton he's a triple threat RB as a runner, receiver and a blocker and he does all three very effectively. Because of his longer stride he also has deceptive speed and ability to makes cuts in space without breaking stride like many other great open field runners. During his career he's proven to be a tremendously well conditioned RB who can and often does play through some injuries that would have grounded other backs. He's a tough cookie both mentally and physically and he plays with a bit of a chip on his shoulder because many do not consider him an "elite" back. That was somewhat obvious during his protracted contract negotiations and it's been a sore point with him since. He recently scoffed at being considered only the 91st best player in the NFL and ranked behind several other backs he's outperformed. He's a very proud guy and also very determined to get respect and IMO that makes him a very valuable player. He'll give you all he's got 100% of the time. He won't ever be as under rated as Neal Anderson was because he didn't follow a legend but Neal Anderson is probably the Chicago Bears back he's most similar to and in the more recent NFL I'd compare him to a Marshall Faulk type back. But elite or not without a doubt Matt Forte is one of the Bears top offensive weapons and their "Swiss Army Knife" on offense. It would be tough for that offense to be as productive without him on the field. It's not just his ability as a runner as JJ pointed out but his threat as a pass receiver that makes him more dangerous and tougher to defense. He's not a guy you want to see get the ball with room too much room to run because he will make you pay for it. Almost as many of his big plays come off a pass as they do a run and it's where he can really hurt a defense because he's almost like another WR. Forte says he'd like to continue playing for quite a while longer and even though he'll be nearing 30 when his current contract ends after the 2015 season (his 8th) I really wouldn't put it past him. Like Walter, he keeps himself in top condition in the offseason with a pretty rigorous conditioning program that in many ways rivals Walter's own and Walter played for 13 seasons. And before anyone makes a comment about Forte being a high mileage back think. Was there ever another NFL RB who had more tough miles on him than Walter Payton? So if Matt wants to keep on playing with an extension of his current deal or a new one, and his demands are affordable and in keeping with his production, then I would love to see him do it as a Chicago Bear. We weren't afraid to extend Brandon Marshall's deal at age 30 and if Matt Forte can continue to prove himself as productive and valuable to the Bears as Marshall has then I would hope we wouldn't be afraid to take the plunge with him either. Yes, NFL RBs don't usually have the career expectancy of a WR but there are and have been exceptions to the rule; Emmitt Smith ( 15 yrs), Marshall Faulk (13 yrs), Curtis Martin (11 yrs), LaDanian Tomlinson (11 yrs), Edgerrin James (11 yrs) and of course Walter himself to name a few. Ka'Deem Carey may prove to be a fine RB in his own right but until he's able to show that he can produce as much and in as many ways as Matt Forte does he'll still be his stable mate and the #2 RB for the time being and for now I would not want to see the Bears offense without Matt Forte.