MORRISSEY: We hardly knew ya, Lovie
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org December 31, 2012 5:00PM
Updated: December 31, 2012 10:31PM
Now that the deed is done and Lovie Smith is gone, I’m struck by how little we know about him after nine years with the Bears.
Sure, there’s his love affair with the Cover-2 defense. We know he likes Jay Cutler -- unconditionally and beyond all reason.
But we have no idea what he likes to do with his free time. The music he enjoys. What he reads. How he got the scar on his chin. He refused to let anyone in. I know it doesn’t have a whole lot to do with his coaching ability, but it’s still amazing, isn’t it? Nine years and we don’t have any real sense of the man?
All we had to go on were those painful, monotonal press conferences. He did himself and us a disservice.
All we saw was someone who realized early on that he could master one thing and use it to take him very far. In his case, it was the Cover-2 defense, and he clung to it like a preacher does a Bible. The rest could be farmed out to assistant coaches to do as they pleased.
He seemed afraid of smart, forward-thinking coordinators who one day might take his job. The result was a line of unremarkable people.
Did former general manager Jerry Angelo stick him with substandard talent? At times, yes. Angelo whiffed so much on the draft, he came with his own wind-chill reading. And new GM Phil Emery gave Smith an offensive line that couldn’t protect Cutler this season. But you know what? Lots of coaches are dealt mediocre hands and make something great out of it.
Smith created an atmosphere of prodigious ass-protecting at Halas Hall. You don’t call me out, I won’t call you out and we’ll all keep our jobs because the McCaskeys sure as heck aren’t paying attention. D.J. Moore learned it the hard way when he publicly criticized Cutler for screaming at and bumping into J’Marcus Webb in an early season game. Smith called the defensive back into his office for a verbal spanking and later benched him.
But Brian Urlacher can rip Bears fans and nobody in the organization blinks.
So lots of people got protected, especially Cutler, who could do no wrong in Smith’s eyes even though it became crystal clear he was not the elite quarterback the Bears propped him up to be. This season, Cutler was the picture of mediocrity while three rookie quarterbacks had huge success in very challenging situations.
Chicago is not Big Sandy, Texas, where Smith hails from, and Bears fans are not members of a high school booster club. This is the big leagues, and Smith never got that.
If he gets an opportunity to be a head coach again, I hope he’ll realize how important interpersonal communication is. Maybe people would have been willing to give him a break if he had been a little more accessible, a little less condescending.
All we were left with was the superficial stuff. For all we all know, it might have been the substantial stuff.
There was a long list of things Smith never understood or never cared to understand. He got his money and his victories over weaker teams, but no Super Bowl title. Last I heard, that was the whole idea.