When your head coach is being fired, the fans usually know about it long before it happens. That coach is on the hotseat all year. It gets talked about in the local paper, during pregame shows, eventually it’s a topic of discussion in the national media. The coach’s name comes up a lot, and barring anything major like a deep playoff run, it happens the Monday after the season. It might be a moment of mixed emotions for players and even fans, but by and large it’s a moment of catharsis for the franchise. People recognize that a change needed to be made for the team to be competitive going forward, that the coach had lost the locker room and just wasn’t going to be effective.
I, like most Chicago Bears fans, did not see Lovie Smith’s firing coming. It was part of a record-breaking Monday of firings–which, for the record, I did see coming. The Cardinals, Chargers, Chiefs, Bills, Browns, and Eagles all clearly needed to make a change.
But the Bears? Lovie wasn’t talked about frequently in the media as being on the hotseat. I do not anticipate that it was seen as a moment of catharsis for most fans (though I have lost some immediacy from those conversations by no longer living in the Chicago area). Most importantly, I really don’t think anyone will argue that Lovie had lost the locker room. I gave myself a day to think about it, because I recognize that my first reaction was as a fan, but even after giving it time to cool off I still think it was an incredibly stupid and shortsighted move.
Forget the Super Bowl run in 2006. I understand the NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” league. That’s fine. There are three very clear short-term reasons why Lovie Smith should not be gone.
1. The Last 3 Seasons. Just look at where this team is right now. Look at the last three seasons. An NFC Championship berth that no one expected, a Jay Cutler injury away from being the hottest team in the playoffs, and a 10-6 record that should’ve led to the playoffs. That’s three seasons in a row that they were right there in the thick of things. And if you want to get really interesting, what if Jay Cutler doesn’t suffer a concussion, plays well against the Texans, and we’re looking at 11-5 instead of 10-6? Can you really fire a guy because he lost his starting quarterback at inopportune moments twice, considering he easily could’ve gone to the playoffs three years in a row?
2. The Locker Room. One of the main reasons you make a change at head coach is because your coach has lost the locker room. I realize it’s an emotional time for the team, but it sounds like the organization has lost the locker room by firing the head coach. In the immediate aftermath of the firing, Brian Urlacher was quoted as saying “we’re all mad right now.” Jay Cutler, one of the most reserved guys on the planet, cut his radio show short and said “I think it’s going to be a very sad day at Hallas Hall.” Devin Hester talked about retiring for crying out loud. And those aren’t just any three guys: those are three of the most important guys on your team who might not buy into what you’re doing as an organization anymore. Those are guys you can’t do this without.
3. The Future. How many years does Brian Urlacher have left in the tank? How about Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs? Julius Peppers, even? The window of opportunity with this elite defense is about to close. There is no way any of the available candidates out there is going to come in and establish himself the way Smith did soon enough to take advantage of that window of opportunity.
That, to me, is by far the biggest reason why Lovie Smith should be the head coach of the Chicago Bears: I honestly believed, and I can tell the team honestly believed, that they would get another shot at the Super Bowl before the current crop of players was finished. Now? I would honestly be pretty shocked to see the Bears anywhere near the Super Bowl in the next few years. And that makes me really sad. If anyone deserves a ring, it’s Brian Urlacher.
I think Jay Cutler said it best. Yesterday was a very sad day for the Chicago Bears.