LIFE AFTER LOVIE Reviewed by Momizat on . The Lovie Smith era is over and no one is really crying about it except for the Bears’ players. Lovie was never despised by Chicago sports fans, but he was neve The Lovie Smith era is over and no one is really crying about it except for the Bears’ players. Lovie was never despised by Chicago sports fans, but he was neve Rating:



The Lovie Smith era is over and no one is really crying about it except for the Bears’ players. Lovie was never despised by Chicago sports fans, but he was never really loved either. The first African-American coach to lead his team to a Super Bowl (along with Tony Dungy), he never followed up on his promise to return and win the Lombardi Trophy. And, he never was able to overcome the great challenge facing any Bear coach: Mike Ditka.

Ditka achieved more than a Super Bowl championship, he gained unparalleled fame for a football coach. He became an icon. He hawked dozens of products on national TV commercials, was forever praised as “Da Coach and won a Super Bowl while making a Refrigerator a co-star. Lovie never came close to achieving “Da Coach” status so when the team’s offense failed to score points he, too, failed to score points with the fans.

These are some of the other challenges Ditka’s, er, Lovie’s successor faces:

1. Aging Roster – Prominent members of the Bears are in the twilight of their careers and they include defensive stars Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers and Peanut Tillman. This team is destined to revamp their roster and that means the new Bears coach will need time. And, if the Bears begin that renovation by not re-signing future Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher that will cause a cosmic shift that will be difficult to quickly correct. But, hey, shift happens. And, if it happens in the coach’s rookie year that might eventually make things easier, but won’t make them pleasant during the transition period. Urlacher was/is a team leader who kept players aligned, motivated and provided excellent deep coverage in the Bears’ signature Cover Two defense. He won’t be easy to replace. How extensive a roster revolution General Manager Phil Emery undertakes will greatly help determine the level of immediate success the new coach will achieve. Especially, if the roster revolution includes ousting…

2. Jay Cutler – Everyone agrees on the following: Jay Cutler is a dick. And, he is an outstanding athlete. But. He’s a dick. Therefore, there’s considerable disagreement about whether Jay Cutler is a good quarterback. Bad mechanics aside, some people think he’s an awful leader. You hear/read it everywhere: on Fox-TV’s pre-game show, on social media and during commerials and tweets at the local watering hole. Cutler provided ample circumstantial evidence of leadership malfeasance. TV producers had cameras pointed at him capturing every pout, moment of petulance and profanity. But, in 2012, Cutler clearly was working on his lack of professionalism. More than before, we’d see him on the sideline chatting up strategy with players and off the field developing a more positive relationship with the media. But, one can’t help but ask the question Phil Emery must answer, is Jay Cutler a fraud? Does he really have it in him to lead a team to a Super Bowl? And, while he’s at it, Phil Emery must answer the question his new coach will surely ask, “is anyone capable of leading a team when you have such a putrid…”

3. Offensive Line – Nothing gave Jay Cutler more headaches than the people who were hired to prevent him from getting headaches, the offensive line. No other Quarterback took more punishment than Jay Cutler. And, while Cutler was sacked fewer times than he had been in the past it came at a great expense. Players who would normally run Go patterns were commanded to stop pass rushers. At times, the Bears were running pass plays with only two receiving options for Cutler. This wasn’t a passing offense. It was a passing offense. The Bears have a long earned reputation for not having much of a passing game, but that reputation wasn’t earned by the lack of receivers they were sending out. This year it was. Thanks to the members of the offensive line. Is it time to give up on J’Marcus Webb who has shown some signs of improving, but may never be better than mediocre? What about prized first round draft pick Gabe Carimi? Is he really as pathetic as he looked in 2012 or was he simply not anywhere near 100% healthy after a serious knee injury in 2011? There are questions about all five of the offensive line positions. No one performed at a high level especially the position that supplements the offensive line…

4. Tight End – The Bears have suffered by not having a reliable pass catching tight end. Most quarterbacks, and especially Cutler, love throwing to big targets over the middle of the field. Kellen Davis was a horrible big target as he constantly dropped passes during critical times. It’s unfair to blame a team’s lack of success on one player, but if Davis had played to Lovie Smith’s expectations there’s reason to suspect the Bears would be in the playoffs. Remember, Davis was rewarded with a lucrative three-year contract in 2012 at Lovie Smith’s behest. He touted Davis as a premier tight end. As good as Jimmy Graham. If Emery took Smith’s strong endorsement of Davis as a sign that Lovie was an incompetent talent evaluator of offensive players then he was right. But, if Emery, himself, made the evaluation that Davis is a top tier player than that will be another huge challenge the Bears’ new coach will face; one that will lead to his demise – especially since talent evaluation is not a problem for the Bears biggest rivals, the…

5. Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions – All of these NFC North rivals are richer in younger talent than the Bears, especially the Packers. And while each of these three teams has some major weakness they all have the offensive weapons to go 80 yards downfield much more easily than the Bears. When NFL Films release their 2013 team videos you’re sure to notice that each will paint a more hopeful picture of their immediate future than the Bears’ video. If there’s a theme for the Bears’ 2013 video it might be…

6. Player Discontent – By the end of the season players were quarreling with fans and were upset that their player-friendly coach was fired. One player, Devin Hester, threatened to retire because he was so dejected. Hester said Chicago’s “fake fans got what they wanted.” This winter’s discontent may not be a huge challenge come this spring since General Manager Emery will surely begin to overhaul the roster players remaining with the team might make unfair comparisons with the coach they lovied and their new unlovied coach and that could provide some dissension. Let’s not forget, that the team’s star player of 2012, Brandon Marshall, has a history of being disruptive – although he was a model citizen in his inaugural season as a Bear. On Sunday, Marshall said he and every player in the locker room would run through a brick wall for Lovie (unfortunately, they couldn’t block a brick wall). The key here is that today’s athlete can be as temperamental as… Devin Hester and the new Bears head coach will face the challenge of replacing a popular coach. But, new head coach X will face his biggest challenge when he encounters Chicago’s…

7. Disgruntled Fans – Certainly, there are other sports towns that have more reasons to complain than we do, but Chicago’s growing disenchantment with its sports teams could lead to the kind of apathy that translates to unwanted tickets, blacked-out games, and more time with the family. The Blackhawks, Chicago’s team which we’ve had a torrid, almost illicit love affair with (illicit, because they’ve treated us so poorly), is about to receive a Dear John letter (with a cc to the entire NHL). The Cubs are like a spouse you keep trying to patch things up with only to be disappointed over and over again because they fail to perform. The White Sox are the across town booty-call that you always dread booty calling. And, the Bulls are that young, hot thing with a debilitating STD. Yep, Chicago fans are reaching a point where a new coach’s honeymoon, if he gets a honeymoon at all, may not last longer than a Taylor Swift boyfriend.

Word is that General Manager Phil Emery will not replace Lovie with a superstar coach like Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden or Andy Reid. Instead, he’s looking for an assistant coach who is ready to grow into the job. Like Mike Ditka did.

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