Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

January 3, 2013

For better or worse, Bears made right call on Smith

RYAN CZACHORSKI
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — Some numbers to put out there. 81-63, 3-3 and 10-6. Those numbers represent Lovie Smith’s career regular season record, career postseason record and the Chicago Bears’ record in 2012. Even though most franchises in the NFL would love the kind of consistency Smith brought to the Bears in his nine-year tenure, I keep finding myself agreeing with the decision made at Halas Hall on Black Monday. Smith has also brought a different kind of consistency around the Bears; namely, the ability to overachieve when the team has looked weak and to underachieve when the team looks like it’s built to contend. The latter has been the prevailing trend in Chicago the past two seasons. The Bears started this season 7-1, only to collapse down the stretch by going 3-5 and missing the playoffs with a 10-6 record. Chicago started out last season in a similar manner, starting 7-3 before losing five straight and finishing 8-8 overall. Sure, there’s been injuries in both disappointing campaigns, whether they be to Jay Cutler, Matt Forte or Brian Urlacher. That may be an acceptable excuse once; but at some point as an NFL coach, it’s about persevering, changing what needs to be changed and crafting a winning season regardless. Lovie’s set in his ways, which could be one of his worst offenses. In today’s NFL, if you aren’t adapting and maximizing all 53 roster spots, you’ll find yourself with Smith. Take Mike Shanahan, the Super Bowl-winning and well-respected coach of the Washington Redskins. His 2011 squad limped to a 5-11 record, and they jettisoned Donovan McNabb to take Robert Griffin III. Griffin’s a superb talent, but Shanahan also found Alfred Morris, went to the Pistol/zone-read option offense and suddenly, the Redskins are the talk of the NFL. It’s time for the Bears to hire a coach who will do the same. Unless they can get a top-flight coach like Bill Cowher, it’s time to look for an innovative mind who can take an offense with pieces like Cutler, Forte and Brandon Marshall, and get this team back to the playoffs. The Bears are reportedly looking to interview Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements and Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, both of which are steps in the right direction. Clements, in particular, coordinated a passing attack in Green Bay with an offensive line that struggled, very similar to Chicago this year. Give him Cutler, Marshall and Earl Bennett, and a running back like Forte, and the Bears could be on to something. An offensive-minded coach like Clements, Sullivan or a college coach like Chip Kelly is where I’d look; the defense has been solid to great for years, and by all accounts, Rod Marinelli is perfectly suited to lead the Bears on defense without Smith. At this point, it was time to cut the line on Smith. The two sides had been together long enough without the kind of success a franchise like Chicago should be looking for. Even if this backfires on the Bears and they head to a period of mediocrity like before they hired Smith, I’ll still tout the decision as the right one. The process wasn’t working, and a new one needs to begin for the Bears to take any significant step forward.