Is Lovie coaching for his job tonight?
Tonight’s game at Soldier Field between Brett Favre’s Vikings and the Bears has much larger ramifications in my opinion than the idea of Minnesota chasing down home-field advantage — or at worst, a first-round bye.
Because I think Lovie Smith — the coach who was all but guaranteed a return to Chicago at the beginning of November — is coaching tonight’s game with his job at stake.
Let’s think about it for a moment. Since the win over Cleveland on November 1, when the Bears sat at 4-3 with realistic hopes of making a run to the playoffs with Jay Cutler, the wheels on this train have come off — with a 1-6 record leading into tonight.
There was the blowout loss at home to Kurt Warner and the Cards, the five-pick night from Cutler in San Fran, the Sunday night loss to Philly, the beating up in Minneapolis, another loss to the Pack, and finally, an awful and embarrassing loss last week on the road to the Ravens, 31-7. In the middle of that was a 17-9 win over a St. Louis Rams team that doesn’t have the overall talent outside of RB Steven Jackson to compete in the NFL this season.
Talking to people close to the Bears organization, it seemed like the faith in Lovie was still there. But after the game in Baltimore, GM Jerry Angelo was outspoken, saying that nothing had been decided on Lovie’s future with the club.
And, we almost now have to really wonder if the Bears are going to let Lovie go, with $11 million dollars left on his contract — a high price to pay for the McCaskey family (who owns the Bears) to see Lovie walk out of the building.
But, maybe it is getting to the point where we honestly have to realize that the amount of money isn’t enough to bring him back. Just like a classroom, students are supposed to improve over the course of a semester. English papers become stronger, with tighter intros and climaxing conclusions. Grades improve, as well as classroom participation. It’s no different than a head coach, who is paid to see his players and his game plans improve over the final months of a football season. However, Lovie’s team has gotten worse to the point where it is hard to believe that they can put a complete game together. A sign of poor coaching and leadership?
And, we have to talk about the Chicago defense, the one that has become a shell of its former self from the 2005 season — because Lovie in on the hook for that entire unit, as well, by taking over the defensive play-calling responsibilities this season. It’s a unit that now gives up 23 points and over 330 total yards per game every time it takes the field.
Lovie’s team is doing just the opposite of getting better each week. I wrote about this scenario last week, using Steve Spurrier’s 2003 Redskins as a model of a team that essentially “packed it in,” and just like many expected, he was gone — with a bag full of cash from owner Dan Snyder on his way to the golf course.
Can Lovie show the McCaskey’s with a win tonight over a playoff-bound Minnesota team, with an MVP-caliber QB in Favre, that he still does have control of this football team? Can he show that his players still believe in his system, and can his front seven show that an extra day of preparation under his coaching can contain Adrian Peterson?
Granted, there are plenty of big names like Shanahan, Cowher, Dungy, etc. who would be very attractive to come into this town and not only provide hope for a great fan base but also take this team — and its quarterback — to the postseason.
Tonight, we may watch what ultimately becomes Lovie Smith’s final stand as the coach of the Chicago Bears. But beat the Vikings — and then take care of the Lions the following week — and maybe, just maybe, we will see Lovie back here again next August preparing a team to win.
Check back today at the NFP for my pregame notes for tonight’s Vikings-Bears game under the Monday night lights of Soldier Field.
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For a look at some of the head coaching possibilities for the Bears if Lovie Smith doesn't survive in Chicago, check out this article from Bleacher Report.