The time has come for changes with the Chicago Bears. Everyone knows that. In fact, it is my personal belief that Ron Turner should not have been allowed in a booth with a Chicago Bears headset for two, perhaps three, years now.
The sorry performance by the offense in Super Bowl XLI was the last straw. In my mind, Turner had to go. Lovie had to stay.
It's been three years and the Bears have been dramatically worse. Well, that statement at least holds true for the defensive side of the ball. Still, no unit with the Bears has made it back to a playoff game since then. So a friend on this B/R gig asked me why I was, as a supporter of Lovie Smith, so confident he could return us to the Super Bowl.
Many Bears fans blame Lovie along with Ron Turner and Bob Babich and Jerry Angelo and Ted Phillips and the McCaskeys and Staley the mascot and money and so forth. I agree. All of them, minus Staley the Bear, should take blame for what has happened to this team. But I also believe that some deserve more blame than others.
I do not think Lovie has done enough (or not done enough) to warrant his dismissal. I, along with David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune, fully believe that the Bears' problems have more to do with personnel rather than coaching--with the big exception of Ron Turner, of course. That guy is terrible.
I know many will not agree with me about Lovie and that's fine. I'm just glad we have such a passionate fan base. But fan or not, agreed or not, Lovie is still coach.
Lovie, in my opinion, can take us to a Super Bowl with the right circumstances that Angelo and his coordinators put him in and vice versa. This past year was not that. Lovie had a ton on his plate as far as duties and obligations to the team because of the failed obligations of the aforementioned. So when you look at the personnel, he was forced to jump into that plate with baby-sized utensils. Sporks even, if you will.
Jerry Angelo failed to address talent and depth, ultimately costing the Bears dearly.
The defense's production has dropped. Why? The facts are that the Bears' defensive starters can play pretty well despite slipping production and age. But when some of those starters go down, the depth is thin and thus carries a negative domino effect on the other starters who remain. For example, of course an opposing coordinator is going to skip sending a FB to the LBs and instead double-team Alex Brown on the outside of a sweep when you know Hillenmeyer doesn't have the speed to the outside that Urlacher does.
Injuries hurt. And with a not-so-deep team, they hurt even more.
So, the logic I aim to convey is that maybe the Bears' lack of defensive productivity has as much to with bench players naturally not as good running the scheme than just leaving the thought that "the Tampa-2 is exposed" at face-value.
There was just too much for the safeties to handle when LBs and cornerbacks were going down left and right. The problem is then magnified when the safeties we have in there are not very good to even begin with.
Another failure for Lovie people point to is his inability to produce without Ron Rivera (the failure itself cannot be denied and thus is not false. But the explanatory logic critics have is). But what people may fail to realize making this comparison--the 2006 defense to the defense of the past couple years--is there were several different circumstances here as well.
For one, with the exception of Mike Brown in 2006, the defense was much healthier and stayed that way. Secondly, the 2006 defense was helped out much more, whether advertent or inadvertently, by special teams. That can't be denied nor forgotten.
I Know, I know. Even, despite still being pretty productive, the special teams isn't as productive. So when so many facets have gotten worse, who's to blame? Usually, the coach.
I get it. I do. I see where you're coming from. Ordinarily, I would agree. But there are too many points that are deeper than face-value and out of Lovie's control for him to take blame for them.
Who knew Cutler would be so bad this year? The offensive line, running game and scheme was atrocious. Those are things easily attributable to Turner. Beyond the starters, the lack of depth and talent for the most part is of Angelo's, um, un-doing.
Who is to take blame for the injuries to the defense? I'd rather give blame to the trainer before I do Lovie. And even Lovie is going to struggle when you lack talent beyond those on the injured list. That instead is on Angelo again.
Now, because of Angelo, we lack draft picks. A lot of them. So, unfortunately for Lovie, his only way out of this hole is through the addition of coordinators and coaches before actually changing the personnel. Without draft picks, what I believe is the problem can easily get worse.
Also consider this: On the same day the Bears fired all those people, Mike Shanahan signed with the Redskins. Had the Bears let go of Lovie, who would have taken his place?
Shanahan was a logical choice, but he is ultimately out of the picture. Bill Cowher is merely speculative. So who is it? Charlie Weis? Mike Martz? Steve Mariucci?
Lovie is by no means perfect. Not at all. On the coordinator front, Lovie is not gaining any support by being so stubborn. As I implied before, I don't think the Tampa-2 is completely obsolete. The problem are his confused DBs (Oh and Tommie Harris, too). He's done it once with it, he can do it again. But some simple tweaking and input by another fresh defensive coordinator can definitely help. Lovie just has to swallow pride and take it.
A revamped offensive scheme and line wouldn't hurt either.
Still, I think Lovie can take the Bears back because he has made the choices before to do so...when everyone does their due part. Beyond that, several players have made it very clear that they want to continue playing for Lovie in his defense. It's good to hear that they trust Lovie to get them wins.
That has to count for something, doesn't it?
Personally, I feel like we'd be kicking ourselves should the Bears let Lovie go. Then, in true Chicago form, he winds up in a pretty good circumstance to lead another city to a Super Bowl. I'd rather it be Chicago.
At least this way, we'll know.