John Tait-T-Free Agent 2004:Throughout Jerry Aneglo’s Chicago Bears tenure as General Manager, from start to finish, he had a track record of tinkering with “projects” at the critical position of left offensive tackle. The left tackle on the offensive line is the most critical position, as this is the lineman that needs to seal the outside edge of the pass rush on the (usually) quarterback’s blind side. Play a scrub at left tackle and quite frequently your team’s quarterback will end up on his face. Not a good thing.
To his credit, Angelo used his first draft pick as a general manager on a tackle when he selected Boston College’s Marc Colombo in 2002. Unfortunately for Angelo (and Colombo), as a rookie the top pick suffered a devastating knee dislocation and would never again play meaningful football with the Bears. Then in 2003 and 2004, Angelo experimented with a young undrafted free agent named Quasim Mitchell at the position. Angelo thought his evaluations pointed to Mitchell having the physical skills to be able to play solid football at the position. Mitchell was known to be the starter on the left side going into the 2004 season, but new offensive coordinator Terry Shea stated his philosphy required “two left tackles” (two with the athleticism required to play on the left side rather than a road grader on the right, as many teams employed). And the Bears indeed had a road grader on the right side in 2003 in a former Detroit Lions first round pick, the nearly 400 pound Aaron Gibson.
So in free agency the Bears pursued Kansas City Chief restricted free agent John Tait. The Bears struck immediatedly, signing Tait to a massive six-year contract the Chiefs declined to match. Tait started at right tackle through the 2004 season while Mitchell suffered on the left. In 2005 it was decided that Tait would move to the left side after the release of Mitchell, and Tait remained the key piece of the Bears’ offensive line until he abruptly retired prior to the 2009 season, with a year remaining on his contract. As of this writing in 2012, Angelo again had allowed an unorthodox solution at the critical position by starting seventh-round pick J’Marcus Webb through the 2011 season to mixed results. Time will tell if the legacy he leaves at this critical position works out or not.