MORRISSEY: ‘Nein’ more years for Bears coach Lovie Smith
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org December 12, 2012 10:18PM
� Bears head coach Lovie Smith watches his team play during the first half an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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Updated: December 13, 2012 12:18PM
Lovie Smith ought to give Brandon Marshall a big hug. On Wednesday, the Bears wide receiver very publicly counted the ways he despises the Packers, this week’s opponent. By doing so, he took all sorts of attention away from Smith’s shaky job status.
Just not in this space.
If you’ve read me, you know I’ve been agitating for Smith’s ouster for years. I don’t see a coach who has what it takes to win a Super Bowl. That includes leadership skills, game-day decision-making and the ability to hire bright, imaginative coordinators.
Until recently, the public debate has centered on whether the Bears should fire Smith after the season or give him a new contract. But now the discussion has turned to the possibility of Smith coming back next season for the final year of his contract.
You know, give him one more year and see what happens.
There’s a word for that: No.
The Bears need a coach who will make things happen.
Here’s the scenario that has launched a thousand recent sports-radio discussions: The Bears lose Sunday to the Packers, then finish the regular season with victories in Arizona and Detroit to go 10-6 and clinch a playoff berth.
I don’t think that should make a bit of difference when it comes to Smith’s future.
What could a 10th season of Smith possibly tell us that the previous nine haven’t made abundantly clear? While we’re at it, what could the last three regular-season games of 2012 tell us that the previous nine years haven’t already answered?
He can’t win a Super Bowl.
Here’s where the horse-trading starts. What if the Bears bring back Smith for next season but make him change offensive coordinators?
That shouldn’t make a bit of difference, either.
Under any circumstance, there’d be something almost cowardly about retaining Smith for one season on a prove-it basis. It’d be saying, “We don’t have the guts to make a real decision.’’
Either you think he’s someone who can win a Super Bowl or you don’t. Either you fire him after this season or you believe in him enough to give him a three- or four-year contract.
There’s no in-between here.
Whoever will make the call on Smith — and let’s face it, we still have no definitive idea — he or she needs to make a firm decision.
What if Smith beats the Packers and the Bears win the division? Don’t care. Find a coach who can win a Super Bowl. Bill Cowher. Jon Gruden.
It doesn’t sound as if Bears players will be motivated by helping Smith stay employed. They have other things on their minds.
“Everyone’s playing for their job at this point,’’ quarterback Jay Cutler said. “It’s not just Lovie. It’s myself. It’s the offensive line. It’s the receivers. You get to this point in the season, you’ve got to band together. We’ve got to figure out ways to win.’’
We’re nine years in. For nine years, we’ve blankly watched Smith blankly watch football games from the Bears’ sidelines. I don’t know what more general manager Phil Emery or chairman George McCaskey or owner Virginia McCaskey needs to see.
If nine blankety-blank years aren’t enough to know if Smith can win a Super Bowl, I don’t know how many are required.
Nine years would seem to be a pretty good sample size of “this guy wouldn’t know the Lombardi Trophy if it hit him in the head.’’
The Bears started the season 7-1 but have lost four of their last five games. Someone asked Smith if he had considered making staff changes now in the hopes of turning around the season.
“We’re an 8-5 team,’’ he said. “That’s what we are. And that record is better than a lot of teams. If the playoffs started today, we’d be in the playoffs. So why would we make drastic changes?’’
A better question would be, do the Bears and their 8-5 record have any chance of winning the Super Bowl this season? To believe they do would be to believe in a whole squadron of flying pigs.
That’s why drastic change is necessary beyond this season. Winning the Super Bowl is supposed to be the whole idea. If it isn’t, then Smith deserves a new contract.
“Don’t feel sorry for the Chicago Bears,’’ he said. “We’re in great shape.’’
Optimism has always been Lovie’s strong suit. Reality, not so much.