It will be around 6:30 PM Central time on Sunday when we will learn whether the Bears have given themselves a chance at the playoffs or if they squander it with a loss to the Cardinals. Should the Bears lose it will also be the official beginning of the "Fire Lovie Smith" campaign. Smith has already been under fire after the current slump the Bears find themselves in. At one point in the season they were 7-1 and being thought of as a Super Bowl contender and now they are 8-6 and on the verge of missing the playoffs. If the Bears fail to make the playoffs it will be hard to argue that Lovie should keep his job. He has only six playoff game appearances in nine seasons, his team has lost to the arch rival Packers six straight times and nine losses in the last eleven match-ups, and should the Bears fail to make the playoffs this season it will be back to back seasons where the Bears boasted a 7-3 record through Week 11 and failed to make the playoffs.
Lovie has talked all season about how the Bears take games one at a time and control their own destiny. That time has now passed. The Bears know they have to win out to even have a chance at the playoffs and they do not control their own destiny after dropping five of their last six games. While I am not fully aboard the "Fire Lovie" bandwagon like some, I do see people's reasons for wanting a change. Very few NFL franchises would tolerate a team missing the playoffs only three times in nine seasons and still hang on to the head coach. Rex Ryan of the Jets appears on his way out of town after a humiliating 2012 season and he made the AFC Championship in back to back seasons less than three years ago.
The Bears organization has accepted mediocrity for a lot of its existence whether due to inexperienced coaching, lack of roster talent, draft busts, head scratching trades and releases, etc. Should the Bears make a change at head coach it could be a double edged sword for the team. On one hand you are starting a fresh chapter with a new head coach and staff and most likely seeing the departure of long time Bears like Brian Urlacher and Devin Hester. On the other hand, you are also seeing yet another re-building project and Jay Cutler having to learn another new offense from yet another offensive coordinator.
For those thinking the Bears will fire Lovie and hire a high profile coach like a Jon Gruden, Andy Reid, Bill Cowher then allow me to share a stat that when I read it I found shocking: the Chicago Bears, the charter franchise of the NFL, have NEVER hired a head coach with previous head coaching experience. It never really occurred to me until I read that stat but it is true and only furthers the risk involved in firing Lovie Smith. While it certainly isn't impossible that the Bears could sign one of those guys history says otherwise as the McCaskey family tends to poo poo large salaries for coaches.
The Bears have a lot riding on Sunday's game in the desert against the Cardinals, none more than Lovie Smith. He has preached patience and never shown a sense of urgency even as the losses have mounted in the second half of the season. He has scorned the media for asking him questions regarding panic or disorganization and he has reminded fan that the season isn't over and to remain confident in the team. Should the Bears rally together and win on Sunday then their playoffs hopes stay alive for at least one more week and quiet the "Lovie on the hot seat" debate but should the Bears walk out of the desert wounded and beaten, it could be the beginning of the end for the Lovie Smith era in Chicago and the start of a new beginning for a franchise that earlier this season looked like they were world beaters.
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