Here we are: the third feature on the Bears' pending Lovie Smith situation. We've covered the meatball and logical approaches to firing Lovie (see previous two posts). Today, we look at why the Bears may want to keep Lovie around to finish his contract through next season. While this may be my least favorite of the three routes the Bears can take, deep down something tells me this may be the best option, or at least the one that we are going to be stuck with.
Make Lovie finish his contract, then fire him- the best option(?)
I will explain the question mark, a symbol of my doubt, later. For now, why should Lovie come back next season? As everyone knows, the Bears have a lot of work to do on the roster.
Ideally, the Bears need three to four offensive lineman, two tight ends, and one more legitimate receiver, not to mention two linebackers, a corner, and a safety. The defensive line is stable for now, at least considering all the other concerns. Realistically, during the next offseason, it would be great to see the Bears get an O-lineman or two, begin to rebuild the defense with a coupe young additions, and acquire an actual tight end. Granted, that still would be an amazing feat. There is much for GM Phil Emery to address, including Lovie Smith. For that reason primarily, it would make sense to let Lovie coach through the end of his one remaining contract year.
Doing so would allow Emery to fully commit to improving this roster as best he can in one offseason. Filling even just two or three of these holes could go a long way for the Bears, both in the short and long term. Not only that, but fixing these holes now would mean fewer holes to address the following offseason. Emery would then be able to ponder what type of coach he wants to bring in throughout the entirety of Lovie's final season, instead of doing so now, while so many other issues prevail. Emery should be better prepared, after another season, to hire a coach he is more comfortable with and confident in.
Keeping Lovie around also means the Bears wouldn't be paying two head coaches next year. Tying up money in a coaching change is not a great option when you need to revamp half of your entire roster as soon as possible. Still, there are doubts that I have, and keeping Lovie next year comes with its share of danger.
For me to feel comfortable about Lovie returning next season, a few requirements would need to be agreed upon. One: Lovie would not return for the 2014 season, again barring some fluke Super Bowl-winning season. No amount of regular season success, or playoff success short of in the Super Bowl, should save his job. At this point, Lovie Smith has already lost his job- it is just a matter of when is best to part with him.
The second factor in retaining Lovie would be that the players acquired are not strictly cover-two, or "Lovie-system," guys. While I am not suggesting the Bears draft or acquire players that will harm what they want to do under Lovie next season, drafting or acquiring players which will not work in other potential systems is equally detrimental. In short, do not bring in players that would be useless to another coach. This may sound stupid, or obvious, but Lovie's cover-two is a very specific system, and certain types of players may simply not fit the type of defense another coach would want to run.
If those two conditions are met, I believe this is the best path for the Bears. This way, the team would optimize its payroll, while taking time and care in planning for the future, both with players and coaches. Still, there are exceptions. Speaking of miracles; if Sean Payton for some reason was interested in coming to Chicago, then maybe you decide it is a good idea to pay Lovie to sit around next year. Likewise, if Lovie found a way to pull out a Super Bowl victory, then whatever. If we get a Super Bowl out of it, I'll watch him in Chicago for another multi-year contract.
Barring the incredibly unlikely, however, it just comes down to what you want to gamble on. I fear the meatballs are doomed: the Bears simply will not be firing Lovie until the end of the season at the earliest, despite how delightfully enjoyable and reactionary that would be. Those hoping for stern logic from Halas Hall may be doomed too: with money on the table and other prevelant issues abound, would the Bears really fire Lovie with one year left on his contract? That seems unlikely as well. Whether we like or not, Lovie will probably be around next season, so I I fear we should prepare ourselves for this.
This may turn out to be the best option for the Bears- only time will tell. So, what do you think Bears fans: fire him, keep him? Or, are you too numb from the beatings to even care about spending your time thinking about the Bears and forming a valid opinion?
I myself am cautiously optimistic that this third option will work out, though part of me still believes the Bears could turn things around faster by acting during this offseason. I am just another confused and woeful Bears fan, searching for truth and hope in another collapsing season- and so the dance continues...