28smith.1.600

New Era Going Around

Yeah, it’s a hockey blog. I get it. But there isn’t any hockey to talk about really other than a bunch of teenagers playing half a world away. And there’s probably no bigger sports story in Chicago than when the Bears hire or fire a coach. It’s almost as big of a story as when we get a new mayor. So allow me to chime in. After all, Desipio got to.

I’m not celebrating wildly today like some others, but I am glad Phil Emery decided to make the change. Not because I thought Lovie  Smith was a bad coach, because I don’t think he is. But as with any sport, sometimes it’s just time. Nine years is a long time in the NFL. John Fox is a really good coach, but he had to be fired from the Panthers because it was just time. Broncos fans are most happy that he was.

I’m glad Lovie is gone today because it means the Bears will once again have a President who hired a GM who hired a coach. It’s how it’s supposed to be, and it’s something the Bears have had an incredibly tough time accomplishing throughout my entire life. Whether Emery’s vision is a good one or not, at least he gets to accomplish it as he sees fit.

But mostly I’m glad the Lovie Era is over because it brought out the absolute worst in Bears and Chicago sports fans. And you can’t tell me convincingly that some part of the bile and anger directed at Smith for his entire time here wasn’t racially driven. It absolutely was, because most of the complaints about him were kind of ludicrous.

People hated his smug manner, they said. Find me an NFL coach who isn’t an asshole to the press. I fucking dare you. Bill Belichek might be the leading one, and who wouldn’t take him to their team in half a heartbeat? Jim Harbaugh is legitimately crazy. It goes on and on. You have to be pretty convinced in your ways and abilities to be a coach at the highest level. Dave Wanstedt and Dick Jauron seemed like nice guys, and they were bad at their jobs. Mike Ditka is an inflamed rectum on fake hips who cost this city more Super Bowls than he won it. But hey, he’s got a mustache, right?

What wasn’t racially driven was stupid-driven. Some didn’t like him because they didn’t like the name “Lovie.” Some didn’t like his religious nature, which he never ever pushed to the forefront. Most didn’t like his system, which they completely didn’t understand anyway.

Lovie is a good coach, with some glaring flaws. He could get seriously outflanked by a smart, game-planning opponent. His clock-management was alternative universe terrible. His challenge calls weren’t much better, but I don’t know how much of that falls on him or the people telling him to challenge. And that’s a miniscule way to judge a coach. His talent-judging could be abstract at times.

But the Bears never ever quit on Lovie, and that’s a big deal in the NFL where that happens all the time. I saw it here with Ditka, Wanny, and Jauron. Have you seen the Jets or Eagles lately? Lovie never had that happen. And I’m of an age where I don’t remember the ’85 Bears. My fandom has been filled with the bewildering end of the 80′s Bears that only had themselves to blame for not winning again. Or the misdirected reign of Wanstedt, or the simply confused Jauron years. Lovie Smith’s Bears are about as good as it’s gotten for me.

And the only time a Smith team was bad was his first year when he was overhauling the team. And that was still fun because you could see where it was going. Since then they’ve won at least seven games every year,  which doesn’t sound like much but was a lot better than what I’ve been used to.

I get it. People don’t like the Cover-2. But in an era of football where pass-interference is called for heavy breathing, having seven guys looking at the ball and making a play on it doesn’t seem like the worst idea. I know, it’s based on star-power of the defensive line. So were the Giants. And some of that power now is generated by Lovie’s coaching. Henry Melton is a far better player than when he arrived. So’s Stephen Paea. So is Corey Wootton. Shea McClellin is better than he was at September, and those guys will be the reason the defense might not completely collapse in the coming years. Yes, there were other baffling decisions in the lineup, but we can’t ignore the good ones either.

I know, the Bears were predictable on defense. But on the other side, isn’t there something awesomely macho about telling teams that even though you know what we’re going to do, we’re going to beat you anyway? Would another coach have gotten credit for that?

Hey, I’m as exasperated by the ignoring of the offense as you are. Devin Hester at receiver. The offensive line. The peddling of Kellen Davis as an actual football player. The tilt-a-whirl that’s been the QB position. On and on. You can’t ignore these, I know.

But still, it’s time for a change. However, I’m sure if the next guy is an offensive braniac, Bears fans will turn on him because he doesn’t rant and rave or have the fire and the passion, because they’re neanderthals. But I know what I signed up for here.

So that’s the Bears overhauling things, a year after the Cubs did so and the White Sox got a  new manager and GM in the past year as well. The Bulls are remaking their squad. The only constant seems to be the Hawks, and they’re not even here. Think we need them back pretty soon, as this is a lot of change in Chicago.

  • JKM13

    I’m in the minority in that I don’t think this was a good move, for exactly the reasons you put. In 9 years of coaching, we cannot point to one season where you can honestly say that Lovie didn’t get as much out of the team as personnel would allow.

    He is a good head coach, with some obvious flaws, but flaws you would find in any coach after 9 years. You can’t really blame Lovie for being dealt the QB hand he was dealt, or the horrendously awful O-Line personnel he has been given the past few years, or the lack of NFL receivers before that.

    By the way, I don’t understand the commenting system on the new site. What is the point of logging into the site if you then have to log in separately to comment.

    • SamFels

      We like confusion.

  • laaarmer

    Who are the bears going to hire now – Gruden? “Here’s a guy who hasn’t coached in a few years but I tell ya, he’s got what it takes”

  • dB

    the factor one can totally bag Smith for is staff hiring and some of the personnel decisions. Remember when he received his new deal he accrued some power in those fields. Martz, Tice etc those hires are largely on him. Hester as a WR, Davis, bagging Olsen for Martz’s system etc ditto. I’d love to have Lovie as my DC…but probably not as my head coach.

    • http://www.thecommittedindian.com/ PowrFwd37

      I think that you said pretty much everything that I’d have said on my own. I give the man credit for what he did – which has already been mentioned above – in bringing the Bears to relevancy again and taking them to a SuperBowl.

      Outside of that though, horrible personnel decisions, horrible half-time adjustments (or a lack thereof), horrible management of his play call challenges and timeouts yeah… All of that up there he needed to be held accountable for. When you get a team that starts out great and halfway through the season the rest of the NFL has figured them out, you have to make adjustments and persevere. The Bears did none of that in the second half as evidenced by the rest of the league figuring out how to stop allowing takeaways, how to stop the offense and how to exploit the holes that were found in the defense overall. What happened in the second half of the season? The Bears coaching staff didn’t do what needed to be done to keep on performing at the level they were during the first half of the season.

      Greg Olsen…. WTF man? That guy would have been awesome to have around this season, that’s for sure.

      Well stated, dB!

  • DaveM36

    Don’t think it’s too hard to argue that Lovie Smith turned the franchise around. After rather abysmal Wannstedt and Jauron eras, Smith brought the Bears back into relevancy. He took them to a Super Bowl and frequently had them labeled as contenders in seasons that didn’t end that way. Still, they were relevant. Which is way more than you could’ve said about the Bears for most of the 90s and the early 2000s.

    I hope he is to the next Bears coach what Denis Savard was to Joel Quenneville … in that he gave way to a coach who brought a championship to Chicago.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ace.ratbang Ace Ratbang

    By all means we can shit on some of his decisions and we should absolutely hold him accountable for the disappointing offense (this year in particular). But for all the screw ups, he never lost his players. For a 9 year coach, that’s really impressive.

    He’ll have zero problem finding work.