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If Lovieing you is wrong…

January 2, 2013

Bill Barnwell wrote a column today on Grantland explaining why the various NFL head coaches and general managers were recently fired from their respective teams. Barnwell named Lovie Smith’s dismissal from the Chicago Bears as the most surprising, but really it shouldn’t have been.

Barnwell starts off by pointing out that Bears’ GM Phil Emery is like any other NFL GM: he wants to hire his own coach. He also conjectures that had the Vikings lost on Sunday and the Bears made the playoffs in their place, Smith would not have been fired this offseason. I disagree with the latter point. It would have been quite plausible for Smith to have been fired if the Bears had made the playoffs. A first-round loss to the Packers would have easily given Emery the excuse he needed to get rid of Smith.

But really, it should have been a moot point because of an earlier loss to the Packers. Smith should have been fired two years ago when he lost, at home, to the Packers with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. That should be a cardinal sin for any Bears coach. It’s one thing to lose at home. It’s another thing to lose at home in the playoffs. It’s yet another thing to lose at home, in the playoffs, to the Packers. But to do all that when the Super Bowl was on the line? Inexcusable. That’s the game you were hired to win! It’s your whole reason for being here.

I know Jay Cutler was hurt for that game. I know the offensive line has been terrible for years. At some point, though, the excuses become inexorable. This was the fifth time in six years the Bears missed the playoffs. No one should be surprised when a coach with that record is fired. Smith chose to have the Mikes Martz and Tice as his offensive coordinators the past few years. He has only himself to blame for their shortcomings, and the Bears are right to hold him accountable for their failings.

So no one who has been paying attention to the Bears the past few years (or has had to pay for season tickets) should say they’re surprised by Smith’s firing, or even that his dismissal is relatively the most surprising this season. The writing should have been on the wall for years. It would have been a surprise only if the Bears had allowed Smith to come up short for a tenth season.

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