Lovie to get an Extension after a Playoff Win?
This time just 12 months ago, most people expected and almost everybody clamored for Lovie S mith to be fired after the end of last season. 3 straight years NOT making the playoffs, after seemingly being on the cusp of a great run following the Super Bowl appearance in 2006. The trade for Jay Cutler the previous offseason hd yet to show any dividends in the win-loss column. And we seemed light years behind what the Vikings, with their all-star laden lineup, and the Packers, with their stud young QB Aaron Rodgers, were doing. Rumors swirled of Bill Cowher coming to make things right in the Windy City.
But Angelo decided to keep Lovie Smith. Promoted Rod Marinelli to Defensive Coordinator, a role he had never played in 20+ seasons of being in the NFL. Afgter failed attempts at wooing the Vikings’ Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell and the Broncos’ former Offensive Coordinator Jeremy Bates, the Bears seemed to ‘settle’ on Mike Martz, who had some bright years in St Louis, but was marred recently by clashes with head coaches and players. Mike Tice was brought in to coach the offensive line. Three former head coaches on a staff with a current head coach? Admittedly, I began having visions of Mike Tice wrestling Mike Martz to the ground after calling 99 consecutive passing plays…Rod Marinelli and Lovie Smith arguing about whether Brian Urlacher should drop 25 or 35 yards back in the Tampa-2.
After a winless preseason that was difficult to watch, the team started out fast, going 3-0. Then came the Giants game, where Jay Cutler almost had to be scraped off of the turf with a putty knife, followed by a win against a Carolina team that would be relegated for the University of Alabama if this were the English Premier League. Then, we lose to two BAD teams in the Seahawks and Redskins. Even after a win versus a CRAPPY Buffalo team that put us at 5-3 going into the second half of the season, it looked like DOOM. The offense was sputtering, the defense couldn’t pick up all of the slack, and our second half schedule looked BRUTAL.
Then something AMAZING happened. Martz called more running plays. Devin Hester went to a completely different stratosphere of kick and punt returning. Chris Harris gained a step I’m not sure he even had when he was here the first time. Matt Forte started playing like a 6-foot 2-inch, 220 -pound version of Marshall Faulk. Jay Cutler stopped throwing interceptions. We win 6 of 7, and clinch the NFC North!
So now alot of the same people who were going to help push the Lovie Smith Express out of Chicago are now talking contract extension. Here is the story from the Chicago Tribune:
From the outside looking in, he has won 3 division titles and taken us to a Super Bowl. In the 44 seasons since the AFL-NFL Merger, only Ditka did that here. It seems like with Lovie Smith, however, people are more likely to remember the 3 losing seasons, or the draft pick busts, like Rex Grossman, Michael Haynes, Cedric Benson, etc. They remember him for letting Thomas Jones walk for practically nothing. They remember him for dumping Ron Rivera for his pal Bob Babich. Maybe its because we lost the one Super Bowl Lovie Smith coached. Maybe its because we thought, for sure, we would be back the following year. Maybe its left over bitterness from the unrealized potential of the 1982-1988 Bears teams. Maybe its because Lovie doesn’t stomp and yell and curse. Think of all the intense players and coaches that have come through Chicago. Dick Butkus. Mike Ditka. Michael Jordan. Imagine if they would have had the demeanor of Lovie Smith?
I have been one of Lovie Smith’s biggest critics. When teams are 5-yard slanting our defense all the way down the field, and the cameras cut to Lovie standing there with that dumb look on his face, it can be downright MADDENING. The shuffling in and out of players this season was almost as confusing as his past history of stubbornness to bench underperforming players. Some of his in-game decisions (NOT challenging Jay Cutler’s fumble on the goal line versus Washington) are, to say the least, questionable. But, in Lovie’s defense, he:
a) has seemed to put together a pretty good staff–Martz has the offense putting fear into opposing defenses; Tice has done alot with a patchwork offensive line group, and Rod Amrinelli has the defense attacking and creating takeaways. Maybe he was always a better Tuesday through Saturday, administrative-type coach who needs to delegate the gameday play-calling and game-planning to be successful. There is nothing wrong with that. Dick Vermiel was that way. Tom Landry was that way. Don Shula was that way.
b) He has the unwavering support of his players. They love the way he NEVER puts their business out in the press, and NEVER uses the media to leverage his players to play better or act a certain way. And if you don’t think having the support of your players is important, see what happened in Dallas and Minnesota this year.
One luxury the Bears have in regards to Lovie Smith is that he is already signed through 2012. So, regardless of what happens this year, if the Bears follow it up with another strong season and playoff appearance, maybe he gets another contract extension. And, as much as I am surprised to find myself saying this, maybe he deserves it, even if only a little bit.