Bears games are unpleasant to watch. They have been as long as I’ve been alive, and more or less as long as the NFL has been alive. The Bears have been “good,” but never what I would call “fun.” There are myriad reasons for this. Their uniforms are boring. Their stadium is ugly. Their TV broadcasts always somehow come across as foggy and color-dampened even on warm sunny days. They have never had a great quarterback, which makes their offense a slog. But their defense is usually pretty good, which makes their opponents’ offense a slog. (Devin Hester, the most exciting Bears player since the Reagan administration, escaped the curse by starring on special teams. As a receiver, he was crap like the rest of them.) The city worships at the altar of the ’85 team, but management has always mistaken that nostalgia to mean that Bears fans would rather see their team ape the playbook of that ’85 team than see their team win. This means that Allen Robinson, who might very well be the most talented receiver in the league, gets to jog through the motions of out routes while his quarterback checks down on third and longs.
So it was that the highlight of this Bears season so far—and also highly unlikely to be surpassed by anything Nick Foles or Mitch Trubisky may muster— coming in the middle of an unenjoyable, exasperating 26-23 loss to the Saints in overtime, was a Chicago receiver punching a dude square in the helmet, twice.
I love it when football players throw punches at helmeted opponents. It’s never worked! Ever! The absolute best-case scenario is that they don’t hurt their own hand. Yet it still happens, because sometimes a player gets so gosh-darned steamed that all rational thought is squeezed out by the spiteful hope that this one time, it might actually do some damage.
It didn’t here, obviously. Bears WR Javon Wims threw two punches at Saints safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, and all he got for his trouble was ejected. And soon to be fined. And maybe even cut, if local radio meatheads get their way.
But the biggest question, to me, was: What made Wims so mad? It was surmised on the broadcast that Wims was standing up for teammate Anthony Miller after Gardner-Johnson poked Miller’s face through his facemask on a previous play. But didn’t that explanation feel a little inadequate? Wouldn’t Wims answering a cheek-poke with a pair of roundhouses be an overreaction?
Indeed, it appears that Wims was seeking his own revenge for something that went down on an earlier possession, something that went unremarked-upon at the time (and was, in fact, what caused Miller to get in Gardner-Johnson’s face). Evan Saacks of Tigeraire went through the tape, and put together a great thread of what led up to Wims’s meltdown. On the Bears’ previous drive, Gardner-Johnson ripped Wims’s mouthpiece away from where it was dangling off his mask:
But Wims’s vengeance would have to wait. He was subbed out for the next two plays, including one where his mouthguard, still resting on the turf, had to be tossed out of the way by a Bears lineman.
And then Chicago had to punt, deferring Wims’s revenge even longer. As Saacks notes, Wims had 11 long minutes to sit on the bench and do nothing but get progressively madder about his mouthguard. So, after a Saints three-and-out, on the first play of the Bears drive, he sought out Gardner-Johnson, grabbed at Gardner-Johnson’s mouthpiece with his left hand (and maybe snatched it? The video is unclear), and delivered two big rights. It is very funny that this was his grand plan for revenge, with plenty of time to weigh its pros and cons.
The penalty on Wims created a second-and-long and forced the Bears to air it out, and on the very next play Foles was intercepted by Marshon Lattimore. “You go from second-and-5 to second-and-20, that’s hard,” Bears head coach Matt Nagy said. “It’s a tie game and you have an opportunity to do some things, and we go the other way.”
Nagy called Wims’s penalty “completely unacceptable” and “irresponsible” and “selfish,” so, no, he’s not a fan. And with the short field after the pick, the Saints kicked a field goal that loomed large in a game that was eventually decided in overtime. So, after all that time spent stewing on the bench, and coming up with a retaliation that may have cost the Bears the game and very possibly cost Wims his job, was it worth it? For a mouthguard? I say: yes, without question.