The Bears Mistake
The Bears Mistake | Chris Schisler | July 19, 2013
Lovie Smith was fired after the Chicago Bears were eliminated from postseason contention in the final week of the 2012 season. Smith had been one of the most respected coaches in the league during his 9 years as the Bears head coach. In that time Smith’s Bears had gone to a Super Bowl, won 3 division titles and Smith was the awarded as the 2005 NFL Coach of the Year. 2012 began with a convincing 7-1 start for Chicago. There were times last season that the Chicago Bears seemed like a championship caliber team. Then it all came crashing down. The Bears made what many believe to be a rash decision in firing Lovie Smith.
The 2012 season began to slip away from Chicago on national TV. The Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was out with an injury; Jason Campbell had to take on the San Francisco 49ers. The game was almost unwatchable unless you were a 49ers fan. Campbell’s confidence unraveled behind one of the worst offensive lines in football, which was facing a daunting pass rush. The Bears could not run the football, they could not pass the football, and they were inept. The defense put up a valiant fight. Put in bad situations the entirety of the game though, the Bears defense could not keep up with Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers. That was the beginning of the end for Lovie Smith in Chicago.
Chicago went 10-6 but missed the playoffs. The season which was once about the dominating defense and the improved play of Jay Cutler was now defined by the Bears flaws. The offensive line could not protect Cutler. The defense wore down late in games, which was evident during the 4th quarter against the Seattle Seahawks. Russell Wilson marched the Seahawks down the field for a dramatic game winning touchdown in the waning moments of the game. The Bears faults had now been fully exposed. The Bears fired Lovie Smith after one of the finest coaching performances of his career. Smith took a team with all these faults and had a 10 win season.
It has always seemed likely to me that Chicago could not find a man who would do better than Lovie Smith. The Bears think they have found that man who can give them the championship they demand. Marc Trestman, who has not worked in the NFL since 2004 when he was an assistant head coach of the Miami Dolphins, was given the job. Trestman has spent the last 5 years coaching in the CFL, where he has won two championships. The new coach of the Chicago Bears was brought in to be the quarterback guru he is known to be; to help Jay Cutler reach new heights. Will Marc Trestman do a better job than Lovie Smith?
There are two problems I have with the hire. While Trestman is definitely experienced as a football coach, he has spent 8 seasons away from the NFL. The game has changed a lot in that time span. Trestman may be qualified for the job but this is rather concerning, at least from my perspective. Secondly Marc Trestman is known as a great quarterbacks coach. The quarterback is not the problem. Cutler is a very talented passer who often has to run for his life behind an awful offensive line. I understand the Bears want an offensive minded coach after having the defensive focused Lovie Smith for so long. I get it.
The problem is that until the Bears give Cutler adequate protection and another weapon the offense can only peak so much. The Bears are limited offensively because of the players they have on the roster. Lovie Smith did fail to hire the right offensive coordinator, a fact no Smith supporter can fight. The problem is personnel. If the Bears could have protected Cutler- avoiding his injuries, the Bears probably would have made the playoffs the past two seasons.
With Lovie Smith in charge you know what to expect. You know the defense will be good. When a Lovie Smith defense encounters problems, Lovie Smith finds answers. Lovie Smith teams are very consistent. In 6 of Lovie Smith’s 9 seasons the Bears have had a winning season. When the Bears would miss the playoffs they were a team that was in the hunt and just missed a playoff spot.10-6 will get you into the playoffs in most seasons. The Bears were an improved team in 2012. In 2010 the Bears gave a much more talented Green Bay Packers team a great game in the NFC Championship. Green Bay was the best team in league that season, and in all honesty the Bears were not as talented. The fact that the Bears were able to get to the NFC championship and compete at a high level, was impressive. The Packers would go on to win it all, to make the Bears wounds deeper. Lovie Smith has been close to a championship several times with the Bears. Lovie Smith was a coach that gave the Bears a legitimate chance to capture a championship. No one knows what to expect from Marc Trestman, but know this; he has large shoes to fill.
The measure of a coach is how much he can get out of his players; head coaches need to be able to make more with less. It can be argued that Lovie Smith continuously over achieved in Chicago. Smith was able to take a Rex Grossman led team to Super Bowl XLI. That is about as good as overachieving gets. While Smith lost Super Bowl XLI to Peyton Manning in a sloppy Super Bowl, getting there was quite an accomplishment. That season the Bears best offense was the kick and punt returning of Devin Hester and a defense that generated turnovers like cars in an assembly line. Rex Grossman was inconsistent at best and was prone to turning the ball over. In this era of football it is almost impossible to win a Super Bowl without at least good quarterback play. Lovie Smith almost pulled it off.
The Chicago Bears made a huge mistake in firing Lovie Smith and replacing him with Marc Trestman. They let go of one of the better and most underrated coaches in football. The Bears replaced him with a coach that has been removed from the National Football League for the past 8 seasons. Trestman may be a quarterback guru but he is an unknown quantity as a NFL head coach. There were reasons for the Bears frustrations. Lovie Smith should not have been one of them. Lovie Smith should not have been fired.