Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith was positively giddy on January 1, 2012, when the Chicago Bears beat the Minnesota Vikings, 17-13, to finish the season at 8-8. Watching him pump his fist as the game ended confused me into thinking the Bears had won the Super Bowl.
Unfortunately, that victory might cost them just that this year.
Despite Lovie's insistence the Bears were 1-0 for 2012, the NFL isn't counting the game for this year's standings. The holdover that will remain and possibly affect the Bears' shot at a Super Bowl this year is the injury that Brian Urlacher suffered in the game.
He was injured with 5:15 left to play while trying to break up a pass in the end zone.
Since then, he's had a non-invasive procedure, arthroscopic surgery and possibly blood manipulation therapy in Germany, depending on what you read, but nothing seems to have helped.
Seven months of rest and relaxation, and he's still unable to even practice—let alone play.
Bears fans have high hopes that this is the year. For the first time maybe ever, the Bears seem to have an offense—at least on paper—that can score at will.
The old days of hoping they don't screw things up too much appears to be gone with the addition of Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Michael Bush, along with Jay Cutler getting them the ball and Matt Forte running it.
There is excitement in the air in Chicago, but the once-strong defense is aging fast, and the thought of Urlacher being unable to play or play at peak performance is a scary pill to swallow.
In 2009, he suffered an injury in the first game, and that sunk the Bears' hopes that season.
He's aiming for the opener September 9 against Indianapolis, but if he's not well now, how likely will he be once the hitting starts and he has a target on him?
Winning that final game is really coming back to haunt the team. In the long run, that win has hurt the team's future.
Not only is Urlacher questionable, but that win also cost it in the draft.
The Bears dropped from No. 11 to 19 because of that game. They could have drafted a higher-rated player at that slot than they ended up with in Shea McClellin, or they could have parlayed the pick into an extra pick or two with a team wanting to move up in the draft.
Either way, it could have put them in a better position if they didn't play that game like it was the Super Bowl.
Was the game important for the Bears or for Smith? Was it an ego boost for the coach not to have another losing season under his belt?
When things are going well, the Bears win. But as soon as an injury to a key player happens, the Bears are doomed.
Longtime Chicago Bears beat writer Mike Mulligan alluded to just that in the Sunday Chicago Tribune.
"It always has been about gifted front-line players in the Lovie Smith era. Every NFL season always seems to come down to attrition, and that's where Smith's teams often come up short. Lose Brian Urlacher and you lose all season. Ditto Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, and presumably Julius Peppers."
In other words, unless everything goes right for Smith, the Bears are doomed because he is not capable of adjusting. He never has since he took over the team.
Other teams overcome adversity—the latest being the Green Bay Packers two years ago, when they had 16 players on injured reserve and still won the Super Bowl. If Smith was coaching that team, they would have been competing for the first pick in the draft.
This is looking to be a really exciting season for Bears fans. Let's just hope Smith's ego didn't ruin things for everyone.