Wednesday, January 2, 2013

THE CURIOUS CASE OF: Lovie Smith (The Legacy)

Felipe M

What can be said about recently fired, Chicago Bears' head coach Lovie Smith that hasn't been said all ready?  The consensus seems to be that, though, he had a championship caliber defense, he failed miserably in getting his offense going. But is it really as simple as that?  

New Bears' GM, Phil Emery believes so. Emery echoed the sentiments of everybody when he stated that Coach Smith failed to build an offense. Hard to argue with a man whose former team, the Kansas City Chiefs, sent 5 players to the Pro Bowl despite having a miserable season (on and off the field)--no doubt, Emery had a hand in acquiring those players. So let's assume that Emery, indeed, has an eye for pro football talent--why did he fail miserably in acquiring help for the offensive line (the team's #1 concern since the Bears last made the Super Bowl)? Why did his draft look like former GM, Jerry Angelo conducted it (with unnamed sources stating that Emery and the Bears were indeed using Angelo's draft board to conduct the 2012 Draft)? And what kind of coach will he be looking for to replace Smith who ranks #3 in wins for this historic franchise (fans are screaming GRUDEN! COWHER! REID!)?  

The focus here will be on Smith, but the point I'm trying to make is, although many Bears' fans got their long-time wish of seeing Smith ousted from his position, this mess could have been avoided in the offseason with better personnel decisions and a direction that everybody in the organization--from the owners down to the vendors--could follow without hesitation.  Remember, this Bears' team was supposed to finish 2012 no better than 3rd place in the NFC NORTH Division.  There were no realistic Super Bowl aspirations.  Coming into kickoff 2012, this team looked old and slow on defense and very sluggish on offense. 

However, once the season got going, the Chicago Bears turned into the 2012 Chicago White Sox--a team with low expectations coming into the season who suddenly sees themselves contending for a division, only to choke it away in the end. The differences between both Chicago teams are obvious, the most important being that Smith, despite having the ability to get the most out of his players to begin the season,  had worn out his welcome after 9 seasons with the fans, media, and the team's front office; while rookie manager, Robin Ventura will not be tethered to a tight leash for a long while.  

Smith's faults are many: a pompous attitude towards media and fans that many of his players picked up on and showcased as well (Brian Urlacher being his strongest supporter and imitator); a conservative approach on offense ("we're a running team. We come running out of the bus."); terrible clock management; an inability to make halftime adjustments as mentioned before on this site; not winning in December; not being able to beat the Green Bay Packers as promised; not being able to come up with an adequate offensive line; the list goes on and on.

On the plus side, his achievements are worth mentioning one more time: 3rd place among Bears' head coaches in terms of wins; coaching a defensive squad that rivals any other great defenses in NFL history; making it to the Super Bowl; having a disciplined team; cultivating a culture where there was no finger-pointing or players blaming other players for the team's short-comings (which we have seen, in the NFL, that is a very common occurrence among most teams); the unhesitant support from his players, from both sides of the ball, through success and failures (once again, in the NFL, once players stop believing in a coach, that coach is doomed). 

Many Bears' fans were overjoy when news of Smith's firing became official, but among the NFL fans across the U.S., they were left pretty perplexed at the move by Emery. Despite the low expectations, the Bears were still a Minnesota Vikings' loss from making the playoffs. Of all the coaches that were fired on "Black Monday," Smith was the only coach who finished 2012 with a winning record. Smith's club was also the only team that finished with 10 wins and not make the playoffs. However, Emery was determined to hire his own coach to start his administration as Bears' GM and this was the perfect reason to ax Smith. Can't really blame Emery for wanting to start his career with his own, hand-picked head coach. The only reason Smith was able to start the 2012 campaign as head coach was because Bears' ownership did not want to pay millions of dollars for Smith to stay at home and collect paychecks from his former employer. 

So while Bears' fans wonder who will be the new head coach for their beloved team, we try to figure out, with each subsequent article, what really went wrong for the team and what the firing means for the future of the franchise.

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