When Theo Epstein took over the Chicago Cubs in 2011, Cub fans had the year 2015 circled on their calendar when the Cubs would become “relevant” again. With the news today that the Bears have parted ways with Lovie Smith, Bear fans can expect the same thing. Nobody likes to hear the dreaded “R word” in Chicago, but the rebuilding process has begun.
Making the switch from Lovie Smith was a difficult decision, but it was the right one. Lovie has a career 81-63 record and has guided the Bears to three playoff appearances in his nine seasons. Under his tenure, the Bears were among the league leaders in takeaways and always ranked in the upper echelon of NFL defenses. He helped develop players like Henry Melton, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman to name a few. But one major problem, all of his accomplishments were on the defensive side of the ball.
Lovie could never quite figure out how to turn the Bears into a competent offense. He switched quarterbacks, running backs, offensive coordinators…..nothing worked. The major problem he faced, and continued to face was finding someone to work with him. The only type of offensive coordinators he could attract were retreads and individuals who were desperate to get back in to the game. With his own job in question over the past five years, the bright minds were hesitant to hitch on to a wagon with a possibility of only lasting for one year.
Phil Emory had one of two choices to make this morning. He could extend him to a long term deal and hope to find the right guy on offense, or fire Smith. Letting Lovie play out his final year of his contract would have been a disaster. He would have been forced to bring back the same coaching staff, and we all saw how that worked out. Phil decided to make the unpopular decision in the locker room and relieve Lovie of his duties.
With these changes, we can also expect major changes to the roster. Gone will be Lovie’s “Tampa 2” style of defense. With the new philosophy, we can expect to see new personnel, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Free agents like Brian Urlacher and Henry Melton will probably be wearing new uniforms. Aging veterans Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs, and Israel Idonije could all be cap casualties this offseason. The current roster is made up of ideal fits for Lovie’s Tampa 2 defense, not a 3-4 blitzing scheme which will most likely be instituted. The new coach will have to make a tough decision, build a defense to his style, or to his personnel.
The other question that needs to be answered is what to do with Jay Cutler. Jay’s contract is set to expire in 2014, making him a free agent after next season. With a new regime entering, they might want a different signal caller. There are no more ties within the organization to the major deal that brought in Cutler. Cutler is known around the league as a “coach killer” and difficult to work with. You can guarantee there are coaches out there that will cross off the Bears as a possible stop because of Culter. If Phil has a guy who he feels can win a super bowl who doesn’t want Cutler, then he has to explore trading him in the offseason. His value is nowhere near what the Bears gave up 4 years ago, but he still has value.
One things for sure, this offseason is going to be a wild ride, something we haven’t seen in Chicago in a long time. Changes are on its way, and the rebuilding process has begun. Just like the Northside baseball team, it’s going to take some time to rebuild this organization. So Bear fans, it’s time to get familiar to a famous saying on the Northside, “Wait till next year.”