Mike Ditka coached the Chicago Bears for 11 seasons. In those seasons, the Bears were 106-62 and reached the playoffs seven times. Of those seven times he coached the Bears to a playoff record of 6-6. In 1985, after failing to make the Super Bowl the year prior due to a 23-0 shalacking by the San Francisco 49'ers the Bears put on the best playoff performance in NFL history, defeating all playoff competition by a record-breaking combined score of 93-10.
And who can forget this!
That 1985 season catapulted a team into sports and social history. They captivated a nation with a blue-collar appeal and bruising play. Mike Ditka - the head coach - was at the forefront of that team. The brains and motivation behind the "Monsters of the Midway", he embodied seemingly everything that the city of Chicago represented from the creole' accent that mirrored the midwest/Wisconsin-ish lovechild dialect that alot of Chicagoans speak with. With only one championship for the city, Iron Mike still remains the most popular coach in the city's history, above even Phil Jackson - who won six while coaching the Chicago Bulls.
There was a consistent wind of mediocrity when it came to the coaching position after the Ditka-era ended concluding the 1992 season. The Chicago Bears went 75-101, while coaches Dave Wannstedt, Dick Jauron searched for the formula that made the Bears the most feared unit in football years prior. With the dawning of free agency and subtle rule changes that served as an advantage to the offense, the Bears still searched for an identity, and coach.
Then came Lovie, original orchestrator of the "Tampa-2" defensive scheme, designed by himself and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Tony Dungy. 2004 was an expected failure, however the 2005 season cast the Bears back into the defensive spotlight. Chicago ranked 2nd in the NFL in defense (2nd in points allowed - 12.6ppg, 2nd in interceptions - 24) and went 11-5 for the season, losing to the Carolina Panthers in the first NFC Divisional Playoffs 21-29.
The first of three playoff visits Lovie would coach the Bears to during his tenure thus far. The 2006 season saw the greatest success yet for the mild personality from Big Sandy, TX. Lovie lead a mixed balance of offense (ranked 2nd in scoring - 26.7ppg) and defense (ranked 3rd in NFL - 15.9ppg), reaching the Super Bowl for just the second time in the team's NFL history, and for this first time since the historic 85' season. Chicago would lose to the Indianapolis Colts 17-29, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of Chicagoans and even more questions about where the team would go from there.
The Bears next trip to the playoffs wouldn't come until the 2010 season, with the Bears winning the NFC North (11-5 record). Chicago would beat the Seattle Seahawks 35-24 and moved on to play their bitter division rival Green Bay Packers at home for a chance to go back to the Super Bowl in just 4 years. Unfortunately, Jay Cutler went down and the Bears never recovered, losing to the Packers 14-21 and letting out just a little bit more air from the Lovie Smith balloon.
Last season brought mixed results, as the Bears looked like one the best teams in the NFL. Running on the back of Matt Forte (literally) the Bears were 7-3 heading into the final six games of the regular season, and ended the season only winning one more game, finishing 8-8. They failed to make the playoffs.
Although the season couldn't be blamed on the coaching, the inability sign or even entertain an experienced quarterback was an extreme mark against the Bears front office. More specifically Lovie Smith, as he is pointed to have extreme influences in front office decisions. During the off-season the Bears once again retooled the coaching staff, with the exception of Smith, firing offensive coordinator Mike Martz, promoting line coach Mike Tice to the position and shuffling the scouting department around as well.
It seems as if every season for Lovie has been a "hot seat" type of year. He has handled with the - at times - agitating southern calm and ease, using that Bob Marley "Everything's Gonna Be Alright" attitude and selling out 100% to his team, almost always to reciprocation. This is undoubtedly a major reason why rumblings considering his job security don't echo much inside the walls of Halas Hall, particularly just in the media and web with those not associated with the team.
For all these reasons "As I See It", Smith would have to fail making the playoffs substantially and consecutively in order for him to fall short of the Ditka-11 season tenure. I call the Ditka-11 the litmus test of Chicago coaches after the Halas-empire (40 years involved with the Decatur Staleys/Chicago Bears franchise). I see no reason for his tenure to end prematurely (contract runs through 2013). If he wins a Super Bowl before his contract runs out the season after next, expect another decade of.... Lovie
Lovie Smith record as Bears head coach - 128-71 (Super Bowl loss)
Mike Ditka's record as Bears head coach - 106-62 (Super Bowl win)