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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Ten "Quick" Reactions To Lovie Smith's Firing

As a die hard Chicago Bears fan, I was happy to see Lovie Smith go. I think everyone in Chicago was. Don't get me wrong, I harbor no ill will towards Lovie and I am grateful for his tenure here, but his time as the Bears head coach had passed. While many people across the country view Smith's firing as an outrage and felt he deserved to stay even longer, these people are not Chicago Bears fans and do not know the intricacies of Smith's coaching style. They do not know Lovie's strengths and weaknesses across his nine year run to truly know if he was a good coach or not. I will try to take an unbiased look at Lovie Smith and will try to react to this firing without acting like a typical, stupid, and rash Bears fan.


1) Lovie Smith always had the respect of his players. I think the number one thing a coach needs to be successful is to have the respect of the locker room so he can implement his scheme and plan. Great football minds have been terrible head coaches (Wade Phillips and Rex Ryan first come to mind) because they didn't have the player's respect. Everyone loves Lovie.

2) The Bears defense has always been elite or really good under Smith. Say what you will about his teams as a whole but offenses were always afraid of Lovie's D's.

3) If you are a good coach you should be able to build up your team within three years. Lovie was able to do that. Lovie was hired in 2004 and took over an average club at best. Within three years he made the Bears one of the best defenses of all time and they forced their way into the Superbowl. The Bears have, for the most part, been a legitimate playoff contender ever since then and they went to the NFC Championship game in 2010.

4) While Lovie Smith is generally known for a being a conservative guy on offense, he takes chances and has balls when it comes to 4th and short situations near the goal line / red zone. Especially in the past few years when he has non-Matt Forte backs like Marion Barber and Michael Bush who generally convert in those situations. Many coaches will take the guaranteed 3 points but many times Lovie doesn't. He risks trying to get the 7 and even when he fails to do convert (like in the Seahawks game where those three points probably would have won the Bears the game), it's still the correct decision to go for it.


5) Despite always seemingly being a playoff contender, Lovie Smith has only taken the Bears to the playoffs once since 2006. That's only one time in six years. Most coaches don't even get six years and they most certainly don't get six years with only one playoff appearance. In the past two seasons, the Bears were an almost guaranteed lock to make the playoffs and both times they suffered an epic collapse to allow another NFC North team to take their place

6) As GM Phil Emery said during his press conference:
Lovie Smith is a good defensive coach who was never able to develop a consistent offense in his nine seasons as head coach of the Bears, and that's what cost him his job.
Truer words have never been spoken. No one within the Bears organization knew ANYTHING about running an offense. The only person that had a proven track record of knowing what an offense looks like was former offensive coordinator Mike Martz and he was too stubborn to be good. Lovie Smith did not show any semblance of knowledge that he knew what it took to run a successful offense. Here's a list of the points per game the Bears scored during Lovie's tenure (and BTW, these stats are flawed because many of Lovie's teams scored a bunch of defensive and special teams touchdowns):

2004: 14.4 PPG (32)
2005: 16.3 PPG (26)
2006: 26.7 PPG (2)
2007: 20.9 PPG (18)
2008: 23.4 PPG (14)
2009: 20.4 PPG (19)
2010: 20.9 PPG (21)
2011: 22.1 PPG (17)
2012: 23.4 PPG (16)

And by the way, when you take out an NFL record nine touchdowns (and extra points) scored by the defense in 2012, that means the Bears would have only scored 19.5 Points Per Game which would have been good enough for 24th in the league- just behind the Tennessee Titans and above the Cleveland Browns.

Excluding 2004 and 2005 seasons which were (justifiably) rebuilding years for Lovie, the Bears were only in the top half of points per game scored only twice and one of those times the Bears were only the 14th best team- which is barely above average. Also, the other time the Bears were in the top half of PPG scored was in 2006- the Superbowl team led by Rex Grossman. I don't think anyone would claim that a Rex Grossman led offense is a good offense and I have to believe those PPG totals were skewed both by the special teams/defensive touchdowns that were scored plus the first five or six games of the season were the Bears were undefeated and no one knew just yet how bad Grossman really was. Plus, according to Football Outsiders, the Bears had the 20th best offense in the league in 2006.

The point is, Lovie Smith does not know how to run an offense and he had the pieces and weapons to run a good offense- especially once Jay Cutler arrived. This fact alone is enough to easily justify firing Lovie Smith.

7) Lovie Smith is atrocious at challenging plays. Unfortunately, coaching challenging percentage data is not widely available, but I was able to find this statistic from a 2010 Chicago Sun-Times article. Between 2004 and 2010, the Chicago Bears were 19-61 (31%) in terms of challenge percentage which was 5th worst among all NFL teams. It seems to me that Lovie has gotten better at when to throw the challenge flag and when not to in the past few seasons, but any Bears fan can tell you Lovie is bad at knowing when to throw that little red flag.

8) Lovie Smith is really bad at making in game adjustments and while I have no stats to back me up (I don't even really know what statistic(s) I should even be looking for), the eye test shows that Lovie is really bad at making the little adjustments within a game and within a season to have prolonged success. Lovie is also terrible at making adjustments from season to season as it appears that he will always stubbornly use his scheme to a fault. It is common knowledge that Lovie Smith runs a Tampa-2 / Cover-2 defensive scheme; however, this scheme is only effective if you have a successful pass rush. During most of Lovie's nine year tenure he has had a really good pass rush and a really good defensive line, but in the years when there is obviously no pass rush, Smith's defenses are maddeningly frustrating. When you see coaches out there like Bill Belicheck who is constantly tweaking his scheme week to week and quarter to quarter, Smith's stubbornness can not be tolerated.

9) I keep hearing (mainly from ESPN) all about the 2012 season and the fact that the Chicago Bears just won ten games. That is irrelevant. Lovie Smith got fired based upon his nine full seasons where he was proven to not be a good head coach time and time again. It was not just the 2012 season but a cumulative effort since 2006.

Plus, even if you want to talk about his 2012 season, he still missed the playoffs and his team did not control its own destiny. Games versus Houston, versus Seattle, versus Green Bay, and at Minnesota were all winnable for Lovie's team and if the Bears were a legit powerhouse like we all thought they were after 8 weeks, then they should have won at least ONE of those games. Lovie and the Bears benefited from an extremely easy schedule which had them playing the Jaguars, the Titans, the Colts (in Andrew Luck's first game), the Cowboys, the Cardinals, the Panthers, the Rams, and the Lions twice. That's a cake schedule. They lost to the Texans, the 49ers, the Vikings, the Seahawks, and the Packers (twice). All those teams are in the playoffs and they couldn't get one measly win in that bunch.


10) I personally don't mind Lovie Smith as a head coach as much as other Chicago Bears fans do. I think the fact that he had the respect of the locker room is good enough minimum requirements to be a head coach. However, I also think he needs a great offensive and defensive coordinator (mainly offensive) in place to actually make specific calls. Lovie at least has the appearance of being inept during the game (for the most part and only for the little stuff. I think the big stuff like what to do on 4th downs and such is pretty good) and so he needs a great play caller on his sidelines. The problems is is that you shouldn't have to say that about a head coach. In order to truly be allowed to keep your job after a decade you need to prove you can run an ENTIRE team, and not just parts of it. I thank Lovie Smith for his time in Chicago and I hope he finds success and whatever team he coaches next, but his firing from the Chicago Bears was long overdue.


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