On Sunday afternoon, while the clock was ticking down to 0:00 on the NFC Championship Game, my first thought wasn’t "How bad was Jay Cutler’s injury for him to stay off the field?" or "Wow. Caleb Hanie had a decent performance and he will probably get a (slim) chance to compete for the job," or even "Damn, the Super Bowl was so close..." but instead it was “Will Lovie Smith come back to coach the Bears next year?"
That’s a tricky question and just one day after the Bears' elimination from the playoffs it may be hard to answer, but first let’s remember:
- From 1993 to 2003 (a year prior when Smith was hired), Chicago only managed to have two playoff appearances. While during Smith’s tenure (2004-2010), the Bears have played in the postseason three times.
- Since the day that he came into Hallas Hall, he’s been trying to make a defense that resembles the legendary Monsters of the Midway and he has done a good job doing it.
- Smith has coached in the NFC championship twice while Mike Ditka, as the Bears head coach, has coached in three.
- Lovie has more winning seasons than losing seasons.
Now we could all talk about the missteps that Lovie has had in his career; from holding onto Rex Grossman for too long, to his judgment on managing the clock in crucial situations, but in the end Lovie has done a far better job than his last two predecessors.
Don’t get me wrong, just last year I wanted him gone too. Not making the playoffs in three years had me sick of him and I was hopeful that maybe the Bears front office would terminate his contract before the start of training camp, but somehow Lovie managed to get his team deep into the playoffs and I became one of his few supporters.
If you really want to blame somebody, blame general manager Jerry Angelo. Angelo has made some decisions in the past that have cost the Bears a lot of games. First we have the decision not to re-sign defensive coordinator Ron Rivera in 2006; Rivera had made the Bears D the second best in the country. Then he decided to trade Thomas Jones—who was still in his prime—to the Jets. And finally, his draft pick selection has never been the best.
In fact I would hold Angelo accountable for the three-year playoff drought the Bears had after the Super Bowl, for the reasons I've written above.
I would like Lovie to sign a two-year contract and see what he can do with the rejuvenated defense and the upcoming rookies he’s going to get—if Angelo doesn’t screw that up. But I would prefer to see Angelo leave the team.
Probably nothing of what I mentioned in the last paragraph will happen though; Lovie will get a four or five-year contract and Angelo will keep messing things up.