Chicago Bears' Experienced Staff Making Decisions Easier for Lovie Smith

Gene ChamberlainCorrespondent IOctober 1, 2010

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 19:  Head coach Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears during play against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on September 19, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Who is this guy coaching the Bears?

Surely this can't be Lovie Smith, who would almost rather take a defeat than to say something bad about one of his players to the media.

Yet, here is wide receiver Devin Aromashodu quickly in the doghouse. There's cornerback Zack Bowman heading to the bench in favor of 5-foot-8 Colts castoff Tim Jennings after only two games and part of another.

It is the same Lovie Smith who, in the opener, pulled safety Chris Harris and inserted rookie Major Wright during a few crucial series at game's end.

And, of course, there is Tommie Harris, inactive in Game 3 against the Green Bay Packers. Tommie Harris: Player once regarded as the key to the cover-2 system. And he's watching Matt Toeaina and Marcus Harrison play in his place.

Lovie Smith, tough guy?

"He hasn’t changed," linebacker Brian Urlacher said Thursday at Halas Hall "He’s the same guy.

"It may be more noticeable now because you (media) guys maybe are paying attention more now. But it’s the same thing he’s been doing since he’s been here.”

Urlacher spoke with some accuracy.

Remember Kevin Payne? He started at safety in last year's opener and now seems a distant memory. Payne and Nate Vasher got the blame for giving up the game-winning touchdown pass to Green Bay in that game and quickly went from starting to the road out of Chicago.

Benching Tommie Harris seems almost like a knee-jerk reaction to something the team is not discussing publicly, but coaches insist it's based on performance -- or lack thereof.

"I think everything he does is thought out," Urlacher said about Smith. "It’s not, ‘That guy missed a tackle, get him out of the game.’ It’s not that way. ‘He blew a coverage, get him out of the game.’

"I think everything he (Smith) does is over time and thought out. Everyone thinks it’s just spur of the moment. I don’t think it’s that way at all. I think he thinks things through. It may not have been just the last game. It may have been building up, I don’t know. But he doesn’t just do things spur of the moments like that. There are reasons behind what he does and they’re usually for the better of our team.”

It is part of Smith's M.O. to stick up for his players and stay positive when dealing with the media. However, his history shows that players who fail to perform really do wind up on the bench.

Mark Anderson was the chosen one, the defensive end Smith had decided to start in Alex Brown's place during the off-season after the Super Bowl. Anderson failed miserably and Smith had to go back to Brown.

The difference this time is that Tommie Harris is a $40 million Pro Bowl player who has failed to live up to his big salary extension. But even in Harris' case, it's not unprecedented. It's the third time Harris has been pulled from the lineup by Smith. He got benched in 2008 and again last year.

"I will just continue to keep working and wait to get my shot again," Harris humbly said Thursday.

If it really is the same Smith, it just seems as if more of these situations are popping up in a shorter span of time than in the past. In fact, in the past it might be two or three years before this many changes occurred based on a poor player performances.

"The accountability has to be there," linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa said. "That's one thing that (defensive coordinator) Rod (Marinelli) always talks about.

"I think it's good because it's easy to just say 'well he's a good player, so we're just going to leave him. We're going to be more patient.'

"But we've got jobs on the line this year and we've got to act like that. It starts at the top all the way down."

Tinoisamoa definitely found more here with his comment than just an answer some media members wanted to hear.

Sure, the coaches are under a microscope and desperate to save their jobs. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

But he pointed out that Marinelli is always talking about accountability. In between coming up with wild, imaginative plays and formations, so does offensive coordinator Mike Martz, although he sometimes does it in different words.

The truth is, Smith now has two coordinators beneath him who he not only has confidence in, but wanted in those positions. The hiring of "cronies" for such important positions seemed like a disaster in the off-season, but those two assistants and line coach Mike Tice -- who has shaken his personnel up more than perhaps any other coach -- are all experienced and unafraid to make changes or let Smith know the way it really is.

Instead of being "yes men," as it appeared they might be when hired, the assistants are proving extremely valuable and easily the reason why a team that could have been 0-3 at this point is, instead, 3-0.

"For you that really know me or how we do things, we don’t try to send messages or things like that," Smith said. "It’s pretty simple."


Gene Chamberlain covers the Chicago Bears as a RapidReporter for