Just prior to the Chicago Bears’ most recent embarrassing loss, during which their offense couldn’t score a point and their defense looked like it wasn’t covering a single receiver, Jerry Angelo told them media that everyone will be evaluated at season’s end. Implying that there is still a chance that he could decide to release Lovie Smith and his staff.
Couple things on this, in my opinion. Personally, I still go with John Mullin’s initial report, that several reliable, senior sources inside the organization have told Mullin that Smith is safe no matter what happens. According to Mullin, they have cited the potential for a labor stoppage in 2011 as their reason. On a family-run team like the Bears, with ownership not having any other source of income other than football, if there are 0 revenues in 2011 how does the team pay their new coach plus Smith’s $5+ million along with all the money owed to Smith’s staff? Plus the new staff? Like it or not, seems to be a legitimate reality to me.
I realize that publicly, Jerry Angelo felt compelled to say something like this to assuage the more and more angry wolves out there about the house of cards he built falling apart. This doesn’t mean he’s not going to come back in January and say “we evaluated everyone, and Lovie Smith isn’t the problem. We think Lovie will come back and lead his team [aka pile of crap that can't stop a single opponent from shredding them] to the playoffs in 2010.”
Second, let’s say Angelo does convince the family to launch Smith and his entire staff, which I believe will cost the family around $15 million over two years. The only way I see this happening is if Angelo decides he had better preemptively do something before the family realizes it’s Angelo’s house that is in disarray rather than just how the talent (ha) is being coached. Who here has confidence that in January 2010 Angelo is going to hire the right man to be the next coach of the Chicago Bears? Unless the family forces Angelo to hire one of the Super Coaches (Shanihan, Gruden, Holmgren, Cowher, Billick), and I’m not saying I recommend any one of them, who can envision Angelo hiring a coach that wants his personnel power? Or who can see any of them agreeing to coach for Angelo while Angelo is running the ship and drafting as he’s drafted in his tenure in Chicago? I certainly can’t.
So if Angelo does sacrifice Smith, which I don’t see happening, who does he hire? Probably another little-known assistant or college coach, who will be hired after the rest of the NFL teams pull the trigger quick. Then our new coach will again be the last person to pick through the last available assistant coaches in the pool.
At the end of the 2003 season, I had had enough of Dick Jauron. But my opinion at that time was why fire Jauron unless you’re absolutely sure that the right replacement is out there. Then Angelo went on to bumble through contacts (short of interviews) of Jeff Tedford, Kirk Ferenz and Nick Saban. All passed on the chance to interview. Angelo then came back to Chicago and interviewed two candidates (Smith and Russ Grimm), choosing Smith.
That coaching search was very underwhelming, and I’m afraid the next one could very well be also.