MORRISSEY: We hardly knew ya, Lovie
BY RICK MORRISSEY Sun-Times Media December 31, 2012 9:12PM
Updated: February 2, 2013 6:25AM
And in his final, heroic act, Lovie Smith selflessly showed the way forward for the Chicago Bears.
He pointed in one direction, indicating to everyone that a mass migration in the opposite direction, posthaste, was in order.
The next Bears head coach needs to be everything Smith was not:
Willing to hire strong coordinators. Secure enough in his own abilities to be unconcerned that those same strong coordinators might one day take his job.
Able to win big games against quality opponents.
Demanding of players.
Unwilling to protect players when they don’t deserve protecting.
Personable. In tune with Chicago. Not patronizing to fans and media.
Insistent on changing the sleepy atmosphere at Halas Hall. Unafraid to tell the McCaskeys that this is supposed to be a professional operation, not a semipro outfit from Decatur.
Able to win in December. And January. And February.
Am I forgetting anything? Probably, but there’s no reason to get greedy right now.
The Bears fired Smith on Monday, a day after he led his team to a victory over the Lions and a 10-6 record. From the outside, that decision might look as cold as a miser’s heart, but the franchise had failed to make the playoffs five of the past six seasons. The Bears had given Smith about three more years of employment than he deserved.
The question now is not about who the next coach should be but what the next coach needs to be. (Though if you pinned me to a wall, I’d take Jon Gruden, his football knowledge and his ’70s hairstyle in a heartbeat.)
The Bears need to hire someone with an offensive background who has had head coaching experience. No more coordinators just waiting for their big chance. No more going the cheap route. I’m guessing that’s part of the reason they’re interested in Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, who has looked very smart this season while watching Peyton Manning play quarterback.
“I think we got a lot of good pieces offensively, personnel-wise,” quarterback Jay Cutler said. “Once we get a good coordinator and play-caller, we’ll make it work.”
I think that’s Jay’s way of saying, “We’ll need your office key, too, Mike Tice.”
Bears general manager Phil Emery has to think big here. Fans will understand if the franchise has to take a step backward if the temporary retreat involves a known commodity at head coach.
(If you pinned me to a wall again, I’d take Oregon’s Chip Kelly, his dynamic offense and that goofy little visor he wears in a nanosecond.)
Give me someone who cares enough about his players to want the best out of them, even if that means ruffling a few feathers or benching players or telling Cutler to grow up.
Many Bears players were upset Monday about Smith’s firing. Of course they were. When there’s no accountability, life’s damn good. Who likes to be yelled at?
“You got what you all wanted,” wide receiver/whatever-it-is-he-does Devin Hester told media members.
We did. We wanted a chance to see the Bears win a Super Bowl. And maybe we’ll get that chance after nine years of Smith.
Hester is the perfect example of the country club setting Smith fostered. Even though he had done nothing for two years, he somehow remained dear to Smith’s heart, which has been known to beat once or twice an hour. No wonder Hester was talking retirement Monday after hearing the news of Smith’s firing. Question: Retirement from what?
Nobody involved with Smith wanted the cushy situation to end.
“He lets coaches coach,” special teams coordinator Dave Toub told the Sun-Times last week. “He lets me do my job. He has total trust in everything that I do.”
If Toub’s job was to allow Hester to run backward on returns, then he deserves a raise.
“We are very lucky — the Chicago Bears are very lucky — to have Lovie Smith, and we better realize that,” Toub said darkly. “Everybody better realize that.”
Tell you what, Dave, I’ll take my chances after nine years of this.
Smith fooled a lot of people for nine years. But when you looked behind the curtain, you noticed the great and powerful wizard couldn’t beat good teams. He got fat on weak and average opponents. When it came time to play an opponent of substance, that blank look on his face finally stood for something: bewilderment.
Management tip: Whatever the opposite of “bewilderment” is, hire somebody who has it.