Chicago Bears 2009 Season Ends: Which Coach Takes the Fall for Team Struggles?

Ian SheppardContributor IJanuary 5, 2010

DETROIT - JANUARY 03:  Head coach Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears looks on while playing the Detroit Lions on January 3, 2010 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. Chicago won the game 37-23.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Wow, the potential changes in the Bears coaching staff is a hot topic lately.

I only know this because last night, I was watching Bears postgame live on Comcast Sports Net heard from former Bears Dan Jiggetts and Jim Miller express concerns about changes on the coaching staff.

The concern was about getting rid of Ron Turner and looking for another offensive coordinator.

While this may be highly unpopular, I agree with Jiggetts and Miller in saying that getting rid of Ron Turner might not be the best option the Bears have at this point in time.

On the same topic, I also think getting rid of Lovie Smith might not be the best option, as well. This article will look into the reasons why I opine as I do.

1. Jay Cutler's Progress

Let's face it, Bears fans: none of us really expected things to get this bad for Cutler this season.

After all, Cutler led the NFL in interceptions and red zone interceptions. If that's not enough, Cutler threw game-ending interceptions in week 1 against the Packers, week 10 against the 49ers, and week 11 against the Eagles.

I'm pretty sure that's not how you want your 'franchise quarterback' to be playing.

Now, to be clear–Cutler has done extremely well the last two games of this season against the Vikings and the Lions (most notably, eight passing touchdowns and one interception in that span).

However, while I enjoyed his success in these wins, I am more concerned about the interceptions that kept the offense from scoring points and often put the defense in a bad position.

Clearly, Cutler has to look to minimize his mistakes in 2010.

Getting rid of Ron Turner, however, will cause Cutler learn a new offense and go through growing pains that could very well set him back from having major success in 2010.

That would be okay, but consider this: If the Collective Bargaining Agreement is not renewed by the start of next season, we could be looking at a lock-out year for 2011.

This means that if the Bears want to win, next season might be their best chance to put something together to do so.

2. What about the offensive coaching staff?

As frustrating as the turnovers and play calling has been this season, we could still fire some offensive coaches—namely Harry Hiestand (the offensive line coach) and Pep Hamilton (the quarterbacks coach).

The offensive line has struggled mightily this season in running the football (where they ranked 29th in the NFL for rushing offense), and protecting the quarterback (ranking 14th in most sacks allowed and 15th in most quarterback hits allowed).

Recently, the Bears offensive line seem to have all of the guys playing in the right spot where they could thrive and gel. Most notably, Chris Williams playing left tackle and Kevin Schaffer playing Right tackle (in my opinion, they should have been playing in these positions all season long).

Hiestand could definitely take the fall and the Bears could seek an offensive line coach that could help bolster the line to become better at both pass blocking and run blocking.

Pep Hamilton should probably be let go because of the issues with Jay Cutler's turnovers. The Bears should look to bring in a quarterbacks coach who Cutler would respect and that would push Cutler to minimize his turnovers.

3. Lovie Smith

Lovie Smith's situation happens to be as perplexing as his emotionless face expression during games where they were losing this season.

It's pretty obvious why, too: this will be the third year in a row the Bears will have missed the playoffs.

In terms of Lovie's contract, keep in mind that he still has two years left and $11 million to receive from the organisation...should he stay the remaining two years.

While many fans seem to want Smith gone, there is one thing I'd like to ask:

Is it truly Lovie Smith's fault that at many times this season, the players underachieve in making plays? Is it Lovie Smith's fault that Jay Cutler throws an interception? Is it Smith's fault for missed tackles on defense?

While I understand that good coaching and a good scheme are very important, good play for any team has to come from the players. Why? Because the players are the ones who actually play the game .

Since ranking fifth in total defense, 11th in passing defense, and sixth in rushing defense in 2006, the Bears have struggled in 2007 (28th in total defense, 27th in passing defense, and 24th in rushing) and 2008 (21st in total defense, 30th in passing defense, 5th in rushing defense).

This year has been no exception (17th in total defense, 13th in passing defense, and 23rd in rushing defense).

The scheme has definitely taken criticism, but the players should also be held accountable, as well. Being out of position and missing plays is not acceptable on any roster.

What's more is while Smith has had his plate full as the defensive coordinator and head coach this season, they still have been put in really bad situations by a lot of offensive turnovers.

Remember: football is a team game, and the Bears team is currently set up to work as a team. Hence, the offenses' mistakes hurt the defense, and vice-versa.

If there is real concern that Smith can't handle the defensive play calling along with coaching, a potential solution could be for Jerry Angelo to hire a defensive coordinator and make Lovie focus on coaching the team.

Final Thoughts

The Bears have a lot to think about this offseason, and they have some changes to make. Believe me fans, this has been a frustrating season for all of us.

But, while it's not popular, the Bears keeping Ron Turner and Lovie Smith might be the best chance the Bears have to be a legitimate contender next season.

Think of it this way: we saw what the Bears offense could be with Devin Aromashadou as our number one receiver, Hester as our number two or slot receiver, and an improved offensive line and running game.

Add Johnny Knox, Earl Bennett, a potential free agent receiver or tight end and you could have a stronger offense that could truly take a step forward. Removing Turner, however, could hurt the progression of the offense.

If the defense improves in their areas in need and sign some free agents and draft well late (since that's all they can do this year), the Bears could get stronger on defense, as well.

As painful as it is, the Bears were bound to go through adversity on both sides of the ball, but they must go through this to potentially be a contending and dominant team.

Letting go of Smith and Turner could set the Bears back further towards regression, which would likely cause you, the fans, to wait longer for a championship.

And I'm sure you don't like waiting...but now we're gonna have to anyways, so bear with whatever changes happen...and don't be too upset if Turner and Smith stays.

Maybe we will be able to look back at 2009 and laugh if the Bears succeed in 2010.

For now, we'll just have to wait and see.


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