Lovie Smith: Chicago's New Dusty Baker

Daniel Scherer-EmundsCorrespondent IMarch 12, 2009

If there's been one legitimate rumor during the Chicago Bears' offseason so far, it's that Lovie Smith is more vulnerable than Martin Gramatica in a UFC ring. 

Bears fans should be worried about their head coach's job security more than anything right now. Other than the legendary Mike Ditka, Lovie Smith has the highest win percentage (.562) in Bears history since "Papa Bear" Halas finally tossed the clipboard aside in 1967.

Smith took over a 7-9 team in 2004 and brought them to two postseasons and a Super Bowl in his first three years as an NFL head coach.

He was the AP Coach of the Year in 2005, and, along with Tony Dungy, became the first black coach to lead his team to the Super Bowl in 2006—his third year as a head coach!

He's 45-35 in the regular season, 2-2 in the playoffs, and almost took the Bears to the playoffs in 2008 with an old defense, a mediocre quarterback, and a rookie running back.

And you wanna fire this guy?

Are you kidding me?

That's like telling Sam Cassell to go enter a beauty contest.

Smith is getting the Dusty Baker treatment from Chicago, and it's not fair.

Baker and Smith are similar in a lot of ways (not just because they both have names more common for pets than people).

First of all, they're both African-American coaches who overcame adversity and entered a profession dominated by white guys—and have been successful.

Also, their careers in Chicago have been almost identical.

Let's take a quick look at how the Windy City went from "In Dusty we Trusty" to leaving Dusty in the dust.

Baker came to Chicago in 2003 and, like Smith, inherited a losing team (the Cubbies were 67-95 in 2002). In his first season, he led the Cubs to an NL Central crown and deep into the playoffs, almost reaching the World Series...I think we can leave the details of that NLCS out of this. Baker became an icon in Chicago and was praised by Cubs Nation.

In 2004, Baker posted another solid season, with an 89-73 record, one game better than in 2003. The Cubs barely missed the playoffs that season, after dropping a two-and-a-half-game Wild Card lead with eight games left.

The Cubs went 145-179 the next two years under Baker, and he was run out of town faster than Blago.

Now, everyone is in love with Lou Piniella. Yeah, he's taken us to the playoffs for two straight years, but he also hasn't won us a meaningful game yet. And since Piniella's taken the reigns, the Cubs have acquired Alfonso Soriano, Rich Harden, Ted Lilly, and Kosuke Fukudome, seen the emergence of Geovany Soto and Carlos Marmol, and witnessed the rebirths of Kerry Wood and Ryan Dempster.

Baker didn't have those kinds of weapons.

I'm not saying "Sweet Lou" is bad by any means. I think he's a great coach. However, I think it's unfair how quickly we (Chicago) turned our backs on Baker.

And it makes me sick to see us do the same thing to poor Smith.

When we're winning, naturally, we love our coaches. But after one or two subpar seasons, we forget about the past, ignore the circumstances, and demand change. At first I thought that we were just impatient people that want nothing more than a championship. While this is true, I don't think it's the main reason.  

The main reason we ran Baker out of town, and are about to do the same to Smith, was because of his persona.

Both of these guys are known for their calm demeanor. Win or lose, they don't show much emotion. It doesn't matter when our teams are victorious; we hardly even notice the coach because we're too busy celebrating. But, when our teams lose, we glare at the coaches on the TV and mistake their calmness for not caring.

Baker wouldn't yell at the umps when the Cubs lost. Smith won't throw down his clipboard and rip off his headset when the Bears lose. It's just not who they are.

But, just because they maintain their composure, that doesn't, in any way, mean they don't care. Of course they care. It's their job to care.

We love displays of passion. We love fiery coaches. That's why Piniella will be safe in Chicago for a long time. We want to see our coaches scream at the officials until they pop a blood vessel. 

We look at Smith when the Bears lost to the Texans in Week 17, kicking us out of the 2008 playoffs. Smith looks like he's watching "Swing Vote." His face is emotionless.

As fans, we wonder if he even knows we just blew a shot at the postseason. We wonder if it even matters to him at all. It doesn't look like it to us. This pisses us off.

We want a coach who cares about the team more than we do. We want Smith to kick a chair. We want him to stomp his feet. We want him to bury his head in his hands. We want him to yell at the defense for giving up 31 points to the friggin' Houston Texans.

But it doesn't happen.

Smith's facial expression hasn't changed since 2004. We're mad we lost, but we can't tell if he is. We're mad at him. We want him gone. Immediately.

The real fact of the matter is that the Bears' lineup has more holes than Camp Greenlake right now. We already have too many things to take care of as it is. Firing a young, successful coach won't solve any of them, especially after all he's done for our team in the past few years.

There are no available candidates who I'd prefer over Smith. I'd be in favor of finding some new offensive and defensive coordinators, but definitely not a new head coach.

Smith hasn't had a quarterback since he's been in Chicago, and the talent of our team in general hasn't gotten any better during that time either. You can't blame that on Smith. If Jerry Angelo can give Smith the tools he needs, he will deliver.

I hope for Smith's sake (and the Bears' sake) that he posts a good season this year. It's not yet time for him to pack his bags.


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