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Lovie Smith’s Tenure as Chicago Bears Head Coach Should Be Remembered for Positives

January 18th, 2013 at 10:09 PM
By Kyle Smith

Lovie Smith. The head coach whose offense always ranked towards the bottom end of the NFL. The head coach driven out of town after the Chicago Bears failed to miss the playoffs after starting the 2012 season 7-1.

'Bears Game' photo (c) 2008, Tony - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
But wait a second here….isn’t this the same Lovie Smith that lead the Chicago Bears to only their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history?

And for that matter, it was Lovie Lee Smith who was wearing the headset on the sidelines. The only other head coach to lead the Bears to two NFC Title games was Hall of Fame head coach Mike Ditka.

Then why was there so much pressure from general manager Phil Emery to fire Smith? The answer to that question might be how the Bears compare to other teams in total passing yards. The past three seasons have seen the Chicago Bears rank 28th, 26th and 29th in passing yardage from 2010-2012. This is a problem that Smith has not seemed to solve, but it is important to remember that Smith is a defensive genius, not an offensive one. Should Smith have taken more control of the offense and not relied purely on the schemes of his offensive coordinators? Probably, but don’t forget that Smith might not know how to create an offensive scheme around a gunslinger quarterback like Jay Cutler.

Lovie Smith’s former offense may have ranked low in passing yardage, but it is Jay Cutler that is the signal caller. Cutler throws a lot of interceptions and that cannot be blamed on Smith. If anything, the fault can be somewhat put on the shoulders of Cutler’s quarterback coaches. However, let’s not completely let Cutler off the hook. This is the same Jay Cutler whose interception percentage was 3.2, which was seventh worst in the NFL this season. This is the second time in the past three seasons that Cutler has finished seventh worst in interception percentage (pro-football-reference.com). Nobody is singling out Cutler as the main problem, but the statistics say that Cutler is at least somewhat to blame for the Bears’ offensive woes. At the end of the day, Cutler is the quarterback and had the worst total quarterback rating of any quarterback in the NFC North this season. The coaches coach and the players play. Lovie Smith deserves some criticism, but it is up to his players to consistently execute.

Was Phil Emery’s firing of Lovie Smith wrongly done? Not necessarily since the Bears missed the playoffs after starting the season 7-1. The Bears finished with 10 wins, but they crumbled in meaningful division games that would have lead to clinching a playoff berth. Also, the firing of Lovie Smith is a dignified decision because Lovie would have been coaching without a contract extension, which could have lead to a lot of distractions in the locker room and on the gridiron.

But was Lovie Smith an “over-rated” head coach because the Bears never won a Super Bowl during his tenure? Absolutely not. Here are some stats to prove it:

  • First in total team defense in 2005 where the Bears gave up a league-low 202 points
  • Third in total team defense in 2006, which included finishing second in total interceptions
  • Fourth in total team defense in 2010, which included finishing sixth in total interceptions
  • Third in total defense in 2012, which included leading the NFL in total interceptions and second overall in fumbles recovered

The statistics say that Lovie Smith is a defensive guru but is not knowledgeable in how to create a consistent offense. Well, it is also important to note that although the offense was bad statistically in 2005, a rookie named Kyle Orton was throwing passes for most of the regular season. Also, Lovie Smith had to endure Rex Grossman, a quarterback who not only threw interceptions but also fumbled snaps. (He fumbled two snaps in Super Bowl XLI). It is hard to fully rate an offense when the Bears’ starting quarterbacks have not had the talent of a Brees, Brady, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning or Roethlisberger. However, if Rex Grossman had not fumbled two snaps and not thrown the costly pick six in the Super Bowl, the Bears might have won Super Bowl XLI. Lovie Smith lead the Bears to a Super Bowl appearance and two appearances in the NFC Championship Game. Only Mike Ditka accomplished those feats, and his quarterback for Super Bowl XX was Jim McMahon, a quarterback considered to be better than Rex Grossman. So Lovie Smith’s legacy should be remembered as the third best coach in Bears franchise history behind Mike Ditka and George “Papa Bear” Halas, and not as a bad or an over-rated one.

Tags: Chicago, Chicago Bears, Football, head coach, Lovie Smith, NFL, playoffs, Super Bowl

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