Jerry Angelo’s 4th Best Acquisition

Thomas Jones-RB-Free Agent 2004:

Thomas Jones

Thomas Jones

Jerry Angelo arrived in Chicago just months after his predecessor Mark Hatley made Michigan running back Anthony Thomas the team’s second-round pick. Despite Thomas leading the Bears’ offense that year and becoming the team’s first Offensive Rookie of the Year since Gale Sayers, Angelo stated after the season that he didn’t believe Thomas was a franchise running back. (Obviously this was a statement that didn’t sit well with Thomas).

Thomas had an injury-plagued sophomore season, then rebounded a bit in 2003. But with the arrival of Lovie Smith and offensive coordinator Terry Shea, who was installing an offense similiar to that run by Mike Martz in St. Louis and Al Saunders in Kansas City, Angelo went shopping for a Marshall Faulk or Priest Holmes (the backs that enjoyed success in the aforementioned cities). Luckily for the Bears, Jones was coming off a season that had resurrected his career. Jones was a top-ten draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2000 but never distinguished himself. He had been traded to Tampa in 2003 for a song, and burst out with speed and power in limited duty with tthe Buccaneers.

Thus on the first day of free agency the Bears pitched heavy for Jones and signed him to a four-year contract to replace Thomas as the starter. Jones did not disappoint in his first season with the Bears. Despite missing several games with injuries, Jones totaled more combined yards by any running back in Chicago since Neal Anderson. In 2005 and 2006 he was the workhorse behind the Bears’ offense. His speed was obviously down from what it was earlier in his career, but his strength was up.

The only problem in Jones’ Bears tenure was that curiously, Angelo decided to draft troubled Texas running back Cedric Benson with the fourth overall pick in 2005, ostensibly because new offensive coordinator Ron Turner demanded a bigger workhorse back in his system. Benson and Jones shared time in the backfield for two seasons, but did not share any camaraderie. Following the 2006 season in which the Bears went to the Super Bowl and Jones rushed for 1,210 yards, the Bears determined it was time for Benson to have the job to himself. Jones was traded to the New York Jets in exchange for flip-flopping second-round picks in the 2007 draft. (A move that netted the Bears nothing, since those picks resulted in Chicago drafting Dan Bazuin and Michael Okwo, two players that never played a down). And Benson failed in his one year as the starter before being cut.

3 Responses to “Jerry Angelo’s 4th Best Acquisition”

  1. I loved TJ…he is probably my second favorite running back behind the great WP (Sayers was before my time!). TJ ran like a beast every time he touched the ball. Any time he broke off a big run, or carried four tacklers for extra yardage, he would literally jump up from the ground, fired up and ready for more. I think he truly had a passion for the game, at least during his tenure with the Bears. I HATED the Benson draft and feared that was the writing on the wall for Jones. Angelo really screwed him over. I will always appreciate #20 and the blue-collar, workhorse effort he gave us in his time here.

  2. Great pickup. An excellent running back who could catch and block very well. Reminded me a lot of Neal Anderson, a solid pro who played very well. It’s a shame he was traded, he was very productive for the Jets in the years after 06.

  3. Loved T.J.! But in the 2007 Super Bowl, once again Lovie tried to get too cute and inserted Benson in after Jones had ripped off that 52 yard run on the previous series. Benson subsequently fumbled the ball away…He and Sexy Rexy cost the Bears the Super Bowl. NO WAY they should’ve lost to the Big Hick (Manning) and the Dolts.. Ugh.

Leave a Reply