Bears in Free Fall

Never fear, those of you that listen to Lovie Smith. Regardless of what has happened to this point in the 2012 season, or those before, the Bears only face the fourth in a series of four-game seasons in Lovie-speak. Win their final three games and the Bears are in the playoffs.

This is true, to a degree, but it dismisses the reality that the Bears are now 8-5 after starting the season 7-1. They are 1-4 in their last five games, and the losses have been ugly in different ways. It also dismisses the reality that like it or not, 2012 is resembling the finish to the 2011 season in which the Bears spiraled out of playoff contention.

In yesterday’s 21-14 loss at Minnesota, I don’t think the Bears were ever truly in the game. For much of it they looked as if they were playing at a different level of intensity than the Vikings. On the game’s first play, Adrian Peterson ran for 51 yards. The Bears did start to contain Peterson, but at the same time they consistently self-destructed on offense.

Does anyone continue to think this team has the chance for a deep playoff run as we did when they started 7-1 against mostly inferior competition?

The playoffs may not be there at all, as the Green Bay Packers stand directly in front of the Bears. Smith began his head coaching career by famously stating the Bears number one goal is to beat the Packers. Smith started strong in that regard by going 6-2 against pre-Aaron Rodgers Green Bay teams. Since 2008 his Bears teams are 2-7.

Smith’s 2012 Bears controlled the NFC North for much of the season, but in the last two weeks have allowed the Packers to open a two-game lead. Not only this, but the Bears’ losses have allowed teams like Seattle, Minnesota, Washington and Dallas to creep back into the NFC Wildcard race with real chances to supplant the Bears.

Certainly the Bears will make the playoffs if they win out, finishing 3-0 with an 11-5 record including a win against their arch-rivals. Although even if they do beat Green Bay, their chances of a division title and a home playoff game are gone barring an epic Packer collapse. But should the Bears sneak in at 10-6 or 9-7 and have to travel to New York or San Francisco, how are we feeling about their chances? Yes, I will hope that they can go on a Giant-style run and catch fire through the playoffs on the road. But what would make me believe that will happen?

A common topic of conversation these days is that if his Bears miss the playoffs this season, Smith will be fired, as he will have then missed the playoffs in five of the last six seasons and in six of his nine overall. There are many, many questions to consider when deciding if a coaching regime should be retained over a decade or more. The first factor in the decision, I believe, should be the organization asking itself if a 30% record of reaching the playoffs is good enough. Doesn’t seem so to me.

But-as I said when the Bears fired Dick Jauron, although I wanted Jauron fired I questioned what truly better alternatives were out there to replace him. In what I believe to be the rare possibility that the Bears do fire Smith, who besides Bill Cowher and John Gruden are sitting on the sidelines? Who would be a coaching upgrade over Smith, who at the very least has kept the Bears competitive year-over-year (unlike his two predecessors)?

Personally, given the McCaskey family’s love for Smith, I think that even if the Bears finish the season 1-2 and miss the playoffs they will not fire him. It will be odd to see a coach go into the final year of his contract without an extension, but I think that is more likely to happen than a Smith firing.

I don’t think he should be fired just to fire him without a better replacement being identified, but then again how do you continue to go on with a coach who has shown the inability to beat his biggest rivals and a record of making the postseason only 30% of the time?

Focusing on the coming Sunday, it would be nice to be a part of a new era in which the Bears-Packers rivalry is a back-and-forth affair. But is has proven to not be this way in the Smith era. Unfortunately I’m preparing to once again go to Soldier Field on the 16th, see tons of green and gold in the crowd, and walk out embarrassed.

Interesting that I remember Dave Wannstedt’s final game as Bears coach was at Soldier Field in a loss to the Packers. Michael McCaskey noticed the stadium filled with Packer fans and realized how his fan base was eroding. While it may look like it’s approaching this again on Sunday, I doubt that will trigger the same reaction by the family. And unless there is a sure-fire upgrade in the coaching staff identified, I don’t know if that would be the right answer anyway.

13 Responses to “Bears in Free Fall”

  1. Roy, I’m a pretty level headed and fair guy, but I’m sorry, I don’t like what I see. Yes, I expected them to lose in the dome, but an average offense performance wins yesterday. The Vikings offense did nothing after the first drive. Peterson is a great player and he is going to get his yards. Hell, it’s the Vikings only hope. But, after seeing the Packers with a running game and their defense getting healthy, the NFC is theirs to lose.

    As for Lovie, I think he has to win a playoff game or he is gone. They have a defense that is old, a new GM, and he has one year on his contract. Hell, we don’t know what Emery’s plan is. He might be a 3-4 guy. But the bottom line, the Bears need an OFFENSIVE head coach. I think John Gruden is the most overrated coaches of this era. But, he runs the offensive system I like and the same one Cutler ran in Denver. But, I will take a top assistant that’s an offensive coach. It’s about time this organization gets with the times. The defense is good enough to win, but this is an offensive league. As much as I was against the Martz hiring, he was actually a good offensive coach when he

  2. Let’s forget for a second the Bears took full advantage of piling wins on inferior teams to start 7-1. The fact is, that was their record, as it was the case they started 7-3 last year.
    This is the second consecutive end of the year collapse, and while this year’s collapse is not yet complete, I have no reason to think it won’t be in a few weeks.
    And for that, Lovie’s run here needs to end, period. Worrying about who the next coach will be, what the quality available will be, etc. is irrelevant at this point and a story for another day. I am sure all the know it falls in the local media will be arguing with any Bears fans that think ejecting Lovie and finding someone else is a foolish plan. The fact is, Lovie is a marginally successful coach at best, and the trend of the performance of teams he leads is moving downward quickly, and has been for some time.
    Here’s another fact. Going back to 1993, the Packers have kicked our a$%es all over field for the better part of nearly the last 20 years, including a big run starting by Holmgren/Favre-led teams. When that run ended, Ray Rhodes was hired and it took just one year for the Packers to realize he was a moron and getting rid of him, before Sherman led them to the playoffs for several years in a row.
    Here’s the interesting part: After several years in a row of the playoffs – and winning in them – just a few years of missteps got him fired. Then a no name, unknown and unproven coach in McCarthy stepped right in and continued the dominance to date.

    The difference is losing is unacceptable to the Packers and their leadership.
    In Chicago, marginal performance and incompetence is and has been welcomed for decades. I’m not a season ticket holder, but if Bears management decides to put Sweaty Teddy on the podium again in January and force feed news that Lovie is more committed than ever to getting the Bears back in the playoffs, that will be the biggest clown car press conference you will ever see.

  3. The Packers hired Ted Thompson as their GM before the 2005 season which is why Sherman got axed after that one bad season. The Bears are in a similar situation now with a new GM. Even if the Bears had won the Super Bowl in 2006, it’s time for a change. Lovie has been here nine years, and while he hasn’t been terrible, he hasn’t been outstanding, either. And, nine years is a long time for any coach in sports. Every era ends. Even Bill Walsh’s time in SF had come to an end, and he’s one of the most innovative coaches of our era. It’s not a knock of Lovie, it’s the reality of life. Personally, I felt he had to at least win a playoff game to stick around. A GM usually needs a year to implement his own system. The coaches currently behind the microphone don’t really do much for me, but I wouldn’t be against hiring him. I’d rather have a up and coming offensive assistant that runs the west coast offense.

  4. Bottom line, by way of low standards for excellence and a high tolerance for mediocrity, arrogance and incompetence, Teddy and the McCaskey Flying Circus have been enabling Lovie’s act to carry on year after year with few notable results.

    A few playoff appearances interspersed with years of mediocrity aren’t nearly good enough for a team with as dedicated a fan base as this. Not when a small market operation like the Packers have had a working model with proven results for decades now. They’ve simply embarrassed the Bears on multiple fronts for years and the numbers don’t lie. If this year’s meltdown results in no playoffs after a 7-1 start, that’s just inexcusable, no matter how weak or difficult the schedule.

  5. Hey, this gives me an idea!

    Slumping Ravens fire offensive coordinator Cameron

    http://sports.yahoo.com/news/slumping-ravens-fire-offensive-coordinator-174240891–nfl.html

  6. I’m about done with this team until this coaching staff is gone. Poor preparation week in and week out, no ability to adjust, absent minded game planning, no hustle, no urgency. I’m sick and tired of seeing this crap festival every week. This is exactly what poor leadership looks like. There are bright spots of talent on this team but the coaching sucks. 3rd and 1 and you throw the ball with Forte and Bush standing on the sidelines? Really? Seriously? I’m beginning to think Lovie is some sort of idiot savant just trying to see how far he can go. The Vikings had one player on the field that you had to shut down to beat them……. the stupidity is just absolutley mind-boggling. That’s about as much as I can express at this point without an R rating.

  7. Well, why not make a run at Cowher or Gruden? Why is it out of the realm of possibility that the Bears actually land a big name coach for once? You’d have to think this is an attractive market to coach in, and with the history and tradition of the NFL’s flagship franchise, why not? Gruden would probably love to work with Cutler and Marshall. Personally, I’d love to see Cowher come to Chicago. He already has expressed that he likes working for stable family-run organizations, why not the Bears? Or what about even having a diamond in the rough already on the Bears staff – promote Dave Toub – special teams coaches generally transition well to the HC position, and you can’t find a better or more innovative one than Toub… There are all kinds of options out there – bringing back Lovie will just get us more of the same mediocrity. Wishful thinking: It’s too bad we couldn’t have signed Fischer last year (would be great to bring some Bears tradition back into the fold).

  8. If we don’t win this Sunday, it will be time for a change. You cannot be 2-8 in your last 10 games against the Green Bay Packers and continue on as the head coach of the Chicago Bears. Absolutely inexcusable. The poor game-planning, lack of in-game coaching adjustments (esp. after halftime) is just the start of it. Lovie actually admitting on multiple occasions that he “didn’t have my team ready to go” is all I needed to hear. Whoever the next coach is should have an understanding of the tradition of this franchise, the charter franchise, because we need to get back to playing Chicago Bears football again.

  9. Hire Chucky.

  10. Thanks for the feedback everyone. JDM, 100% agree, I have been wanting the Bears to hire an offensive head coach since Wanny was dumped. We see what three straight defensive coaches have gotten us. Chucky is intriguing….wouldn’t it be interesting to see how he’d handle Cutler?

  11. This is the NFL, I don’t think the Bears are done yet. All is takes is a hot streak and they’re in the Super Bowl…just like the Giants last year (who looked HORRIBLE before their streak) and even the Arizona Cardinals from a few years ago.

    I’m not saying I expect them to win out, it’s just that nothing should surprise me right now since they are fully capable of going on a run.

  12. Roy, it’s not like you can’t hire a defensive coach. Bill Bellicheck is a defensive coach and so is Tom Coughlin. Mike Smith is also a defensive coach. Tony Dungy had a successful run as a head coach. Bill Parcels was also a defensive coach. The problem is, the Bears NEED an offensive coach to change the philosphy of the organization. They keep trying to tweak things, and nothing works. Their defense is good enough to win in today’s NFL. They lost Sunday because their offense left way too many points on the field. Sure, Peterson ran over them on the first drive. He’s also a great player, and great player make plays. He had 210 yards in the first three quarters agains the Packers the previous week. But, the Packers found a way to win. Because their offense scores points. The Vikings offense did very little after the first drive. They were pretty much begging Peterson to break another big run (which he didn’t).

  13. Good points JDM, and I agree with you that someone needs to kick the organization’s teeth in as far as culture change on what it takes to win in the NFL now–OFFENSE. Obviously Emery has something of a clue given that he acquired the team’s first legitimate prototype receiver that stays healthy since Dick Gordon. This used to be anathema to me based on nothing else but “Bear tradition”, but I wouldn’t even care if an offensive-minded HC comes in and implements a 3-4 defense for the first time in Chicago. (Could that have been what Emery was thinking by drafting Shea McClellin? Hmmm….)

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