Haugh Defends Lovie Smith
David Haugh is up in arms about The Sporting News ranking Lovie Smith twentieth among active coaches in the NFL. (Really? Sporting News? Didn't Sport Magazine want to weigh-in on the issue?) I don't know how good a football coach Lovie Smith is and neither does Haugh but it's quite difficult to believe that Lovie's B- performance in Chicago doesn't elevate him above godawful coaches like Brad Childress, Norv Turner, Wade Phillips and Dick Jauron (specifically that last fella I mentioned). Ultimately, Haugh is right on-cue with one point:
If the Bears struggle in 2009 after the best off-season in team history, then doubt Smith and apply the pressure that will be appropriate in the Age of Cutler.
On the other hand, if the Bears win a division title in 2009, Mr. Smith will be staying in Chicago for a long, long time.
Special Teams Not So Special
Check out the solid Sun-Times breakdown of the returning players on special teams. Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News (and the best football writer in America, hands down) had the Bears ranked as the top special teams unit in the game for both 2006 and 2007 and rightfully so. In 2008, as the return game went MIA, Gosselin dropped the Bears to 8th. Here's the truth. Brad Maynard is a wonderful punter with a habit of shanking the ball in big spots. Robbie Gould is a clutch performer but puts the Bears in tricky situations with his inability to kick in the 50s. The coverage units are solid but can be erratic (see Atlanta '08). The return game is erratic but can be brilliant (see New Orleans '08). If the Bears hope to mirror the Super Bowl run of 2006 (while re-writing the final act), they'll need the special teams units to return to 2006 form.