If a proper description is needed for the 2008 Chicago Bears season, there’s no need to look further than the 6:13–4:43 mark of Sunday’s second quarter.
Leading 7-3 and standing at the Minnesota one-yard line, on the brink of extending their lead, the Bears got stuffed four plays in a row and then are instantly burned by a 99-yard touchdown pass to the emerging receiver they were unable to hold on to.
What followed is a humiliating 34-14 shellacking that pretty much slammed the door shut on their hopes of a division title.
And there you have it.
Just another instance of them promising great things only to yank the run out from underneath us leading to a horribly painful fall. While it’s not possible to pinpoint one specific source for why this team can’t put together any sort of consistently good play, a major cause can be seen on the permanently stoic face of one Lovie Smith.
There was something undeniably effective about how Smith ran the team during the 2005 and 2006 campaigns, when the Bears won back-to-back division titles and even a conference title.
Lovie, with his ultra quite and reserved manor, was able to keep his teams inspired without having to be the animated disciplinarian like his predecessors George Halas and Mike Ditka. His silent confidence resonated almost perfectly with his players.
Well, now it’s two years later and whatever magic that made those teams so successful simply isn’t there anymore. While there are some new faces, the core of the teams is virtually unchanged and yet the results are entirely different.
At 6-6 the Bears are uninspired, they are unmotivated, and at times in recent weeks they have been flat-out unwatchable.
Admittedly, the season hasn’t been a total wash. The best of Lovie-Smith-coached teams have made appearances from time-to-time, but the staggering inconsistency has made this squad all the more frustrating to watch. It’s exhausting to watch the Bears play an almost perfect game to upset the Colts in Week One, then turn around and waste everyone’s time by even showing up against Green Bay three weeks ago.
How can the same team that turned out an inspired goal-line stand to beat Philadelphia not even hold on to beat Atlanta in a game where they took the lead with a mere 11 seconds to play? Whatever Lovie is preaching simply isn’t getting through to the congregation like it has in the past.
Inconsistent motivation is not the only problem to come out of the Smith regime. Sure, he has had his share of success since coming to Chicago in 2004, but to say Lovie has been a great coach is almost laughable.
Whether it’s baffling, pin-headed, in-game decisions (giving the Seahawks a hail mary attempt by foolishly calling a time out with two seconds remaining in the '06 Divisional Playoff game when Seattle was letting the clock run out to go to overtime) or failures of player development (I guess it just took the brilliance of Tyler Thigpen to make Mark Bradley a viable receiver), Lovie has had several moments where he has countered any coaching effectiveness with acts of pure idiocy.
Is it too early to say Lovie Smith needs to be fired? Ultimately, it still comes down to the fact that the team's many high-paid players simply aren’t performing. My reasoning for suggesting a coaching change should potentially occur is that this team is either too mentally weak to close out a game (Tampa, Atlanta) or they simply can’t be bothered to work up anywhere near enough energy for important games (Green Bay, at Minnesota), and at least some of that falls on the coaching staff.
If Smith can’t make this team play as if they give a crap, surely there is someone who can. And if not, then the Super bowl team of two years ago was a fluke, and that is a real shame. That would call for a full-blown overhaul, and we all know that that always begins with a change at signal caller.
I’m not saying it’s time to declare Kyle Orton the next Bears QB bust, but there’s no denying that his three pick in seven attempt display in the second half was very Grosmanesque.
At the risk of stating the obvious: Matt Forte is flat-out awesome. If the Bears had a team full of Fortes, Roger Goodell could just crown them Super bowl champions right now. But instead, he’s stuck being the bright spot on a team full of Cedric Bensons.
Complete overhaul or not, I hope one of the first offseason moves Jerry Angelo makes is releasing Adawale Ogunleye. I’m sure there are plenty of teams in the market for an arrogant ass who plays well a maximum of three games a year, so we shouldn’t have to deal with him anymore.
I thought a Jason McKie injury would put at least a one-game halt on using the up-back in goal-line situations. Nope. Let’s send Jason Davis up the gut without a lead blocker against the most impenetrable interior defensive line in football. Now that sounds like a recipe for success.
Lastly, is anyone else as sick as I am of the Colts and their weekly undeserved victories? Living in what is essentially Colts country likely adds to my anger, but they get outplayed every week just to have their opponent roll over and die. It’s infuriating.