Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith enters the 2009 season with a 45-35 career record, which ranks behind only legends George Halas and Mike Ditka in team history. Still, six years after he arrived with no previous head coach experience, the jury is out what to make of him.
Is Smith a quietly effective leader? Or has he made a career off the 2006 season, which saw the Bears turn in a 13-3 record en route to their first Super Bowl appearance since the Ditka days? Throw out one magical season, and Smith has a 32-32 mark, which reflects the treadmill existence that his team has had the last two seasons.
Because the franchise had a need at the quarterback position for what
seemed like forever, the coaches had an easy out in the blame game. The arrival of boy wonder Jay Cutler changes that now. For the first time in decades, the Bears have what they consider to be a championship-caliber talent at quarterback, not an excuse for failure.
Expectations are higher in Bears camp than at any time in recent
memory, and as much as Cutler and his teammates, the onus will be on Smith and his hand-picked staff to meet them. This could the season that we begin to find out whether the Lovie bunch is a cut above the rest or something less than that.
Native of Big Sandy, Tex. Starts his sixth season as head man. Guided team to 2005 and 2006 NFC North championships and 2006 NFC title. Selected Coach of the Year in 2006 season. Defense-oriented coach whose defenses forced 172 turnovers in his tenure, most in league. His teams allowed 18.6 points per game, fourth in league. Served as Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebackers coach in 1996-2000 seasons and St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator in 2001-03 seasons. Signed through 2011 campaign.
Native of Rosemead, Calif. First season with team. Served as Detroit Lions head coach in 2006-2008 seasons. Guided Lions to 0-16 record last season and 10-38 overall. Served as Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive line coach in 1996-05 seasons as well as assistant coach in 2002-05 campaigns.
Native of Martinez, Calif. Starts fifth season in current role. Unit ranked 32nd,
29th, 15th, 26th and 27th in total yards in that span. Served in same capacity in 1993-96 seasons. Guided University of Illinois to 35-57 record, two bowl bids and one Big Ten championship as head coach in 1997-04 seasons.
Native of Aliquippa, Penn. Starts third season in current role. United ranked
28th and 21st in yards allowed in that span. Served as linebackers coach in
2004-06 seasons as well as assistant head coach in 2006 campaign. First
assistant hired in Lovie Smith regime. Served under Smith as St. Louis Rams linebackers coach in 2003 season.
Native of Ossining, N.Y. Starts sixth season in current role. Punt return units
rank second in average yards gained (10.9) and allowed (7.1) in his tenure.
Punt and placekick units combined to block 16 kicks in same span, most in
league. Served as Philadelphia Eagles assistant special teams and defensive line coach in 2001-03 seasons.