Lovie Smith Injected Life Into Packers-Bears Rivalry

Peter BukowskiSenior Analyst ISeptember 11, 2009

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 10: Lovie Smith, Head Coach of the Chicago Bears, steps onto the field before the Bears game against the Green Bay Packers on September 10, 2006 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Bears defeated the Packers 26-0. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

When Lovie Smith arrived in Chicago as the new man in charge five seasons ago, he had a major, but specific goal, “Beat Green Bay.” 

At that time, Green Bay was the only division champion the new NFC North had known, and was a perennial winner in the previous NFC Central.  In fact, from 1995-2008, the team in green had won seven of 14 division crowns.  

In Chicago though, they’d won just one division title since a guy named Ditka left town. Even in 2001, when the Bears went 13-3, they were swept by Green Bay.

The oldest rivalry in football had lost its luster, because even if the games were close, they didn’t matter since Green Bay was going to win more games than Chicago anyway.

Within a year of making his famous anti-Packer decree, the Bears had gone from 5-11 cellar dweller to 11-5 division winner. The next season, the Bears used their pulverizing defense to dominate opponents and wound up in the Super Bowl.

Four out of the last five seasons, the NFC North division winner has come from Chicago or Green Bay.

In the 1980s, the Bears were the powerhouse and the Packers the team struggling to find a course.  In the 1990s, it was the other way around for the most part. In fact, the Packers seemed to play better at Soldier Field than anywhere else (maybe it's karma from all those Cubs fans who invade Milwaukee for Brewers games all summer).

No football fan wants to see a rivalry game end in a blowout. Not consistently anyway.  Sure, it was great to beat the hell out of the Bears in Lambeau last year. It was just payback for the whooping they put on Green Bay in the coldest game I’ve ever been to the season before in Chicago.

Game broadcasts love to use the Brett Favre statistic about the number of QBs starting in Chicago while Favre started in Green Bay (I believe the number is somewhere around 683).  But in some ways, it is nice to finally have a foil in Jay Cutler.

Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Devin Hester, they provide a solid core for a Bears team that had been aging.  With Minnesota setting their franchise back another half decade with this Favre debacle, and the Lions being the Lions, the Packers and Bears look like they’re going to fight this thing out for the foreseeable future.

No excuses for either team now with Super Bowl expectations in both cities for as long as Cutler and Rodgers stay under center in their respective cities.

Who would have thought a man named Lovie would bring such change the Monsters of the Midway.  But he has, and Packer fans should be happy that he has.

This season the talent on the field will reflect the richness of the history between two marquee NFL franchises. If you love football, I don’t know how you could get sick of Cutler/Rodgers promos.

Sunday Night will be what Packers versus Bears is all about. And it’s due in large part to a man with a simple goal, “Beat Green Bay.”   


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.