Before his defense was exposed as undisciplined by the read-option attack of Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson, Lovie Smith had the option of changing the complexion of the game. He decided to gamble and ultimately cost the Chicago Bears a victory. Now it only seems reasonable to question his judgment.
In the second quarter, with the Chicago Bears leading by a 7-0 score, Lovie opted to go for it on fourth and one instead of taking the nearly automatic three points via the third most accurate kicker in the history of the NFL, Robbie Gould. Michael Bush was stopped short, and now Smith will have to deal with the consequences and the justified diatribe stemming from an undoubtedly bad decision.
Not understanding the seemingly rudimentary value of having a two-score lead is arguably Lovie's biggest coaching gaff—a list that includes a litany of poor challenges, odd clock management, and general indifference toward the offensive side of the ball—of all. And this is all just six weeks removed from talks of extending his contract.
Needless to say (I'd say my stance was pretty firmly entrenched on Oct. 11), that would be a bad idea. However, even on the heels of a disappointing loss that clearly could have been avoided, Lovie's Bears are 8-4, and they control their own destiny within the division. And at 11-5, or possibly even at 10-6, it's hard to imagine team president Ted Phillips, and the McCaskey family, not extending their twangy head coach.
They'll say his team was gritty and Phillips will secretly relish the increase in concession sales since you have to be drunk to watch Lovie Smith football. Teddy will beam when thinking about his bottom line at the next vacuum salesman symposium he keynotes.
Meanwhile, Lovie Smith will cash in to the tune of roughly $7 million a year; a price we'll try to justify because we all remember the pain and suffering of the 90s. But Lovie Smith isn't getting it done in Chicago—not if you're interested in championships at least.
Granted, there's value in consistency, but how long will being consistent suffice?
As a city, Chicago is self-deprecating and, in comparison to places like L.A. and New York, it doesn't have nearly the sense of inflated self-importance, but Chicago Bears football is different. This is one of the charter franchises of the National Football League.
The walls of Halas Hall are adorned with pictures of Ditka, Payton, Sayers, Luckman and Butkus. Then, of course, there's the namesake of the building itself: Papa Bear, Mr. Everything, the man who started it all and shaped this franchise after its city.
He made the Bears tough. He turned them into "Monsters." And he won six NFL championships while doing it.
Let that last sentence linger. Swish it around a little bit and then think about the Lovie Smith era of Chicago Bears football.
George Halas won six NFL championships. Lovie Smith has coached in six NFL playoff games.
I hate to be the one to perpetuate the notion of entitlement, but that's simply not good enough. The expectations have to be higher. The Bears are one of the most powerful brands the League has to offer, and mediocrity is rather unbecoming.
What Lovie Smith did on Sunday against the Seahawks just further evidenced the fact that he's just not getting it done in Chicago. When you pop in the game film from this afternoon, it'll be really hard to arrive at any other conclusion.
It's hard to make a case that your head coach should be fired when he's sitting at 8-4 and on the precipice of making the playoffs, but if—or is it when?—the Bears putter out, they need to seriously reevaluate their position. If Lovie Smith can't deliver on Phil Emery's promises of championships, they need go with somebody who can.
Maybe they'll kick the field goal.