When Lovie Smith arrives at Soldier Field you can bet the challenge between a former Bears coach and his successor will be intense.
Second-year Bears coach Marc Trestman certainly didn’t make that known this week in a press conference with the Chicago media on Monday.
Not only will Trestman be up against Lovie Smith (the Bears coach from 2004-2012), but also former players in quarterback Josh McCown, safety Major Wright and cornerback Isaiah Frey.
McCown won three of five starts for the Bears last season with Jay Cutler injured as the Bears finished 8-8 in Trestman’s debut season.
The Bears are 4-6 right now picking up their first win in four games over Minnesota last Sunday. Tampa Bay is 2-8 coming off their first win in six weeks in Washington.
Interestingly enough Smith is the fourth ex-Bears head coach to return as an opposing head coach. Jack Pardee lost in 1980, Mike Ditka went 1-1 and Dick Jauron lost in 2006, according to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times.
“The thing I can tell you about Lovie is that I’ve watched him for years and played against him for years,” Trestman said. “And I know him as a person, and I have tremendous respect for him as a person in all areas.”
Trestman also has the upmost respect for his former quarterback McCown, but he wants the Bears to focus on the task ahead and that’s the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“The fact of the matter is we’re not playing Josh on Sunday,” he said. “We’re playing the Tampa Bay Bucs.”
Despite their record, the Bears are drastically better than Tampa Bay on both sides of the ball. They rank 13th in total offense with just around 361 yards, while the Bucs are 28th with 313 yards.
The Bucs haven’t been getting much going on the ground with Doug Martin and Bobby Rainey struggling. Tampa Bay ranks 28th as well in run offense with around 86 yards per outing.
Rookie Charles Sims made his debut two weeks as he’s carried the ball 21 times for a total of 59 yards and an average of 2.8. Clearly the Bucs offensive line is struggling to open any running lanes for their backs.
That bodes well for the Bears, who’s run defense ranks 15th this season with around 111 yards allowed on the ground this season. As bad as the Bears’ defense as been at times giving up the big plays they’ve been much improved against the run for the most part.
Smith had this to say about his time with the Bears on Wednesday’s conference phone call with the Chicago media.
“To be at a place for nine years in the NFL is pretty good. So I enjoyed every second I had there,” Smith said. “And a part of life, sometimes, you move on to other places. The best job I’ve always had has been my next job. I couldn’t be happier with where I am now.”
In his 12th season Lance Briggs has plenty of fond memories of his longtime coach that pushed him to the best for so many seasons in the windy city.
“Lovie should be remembered as one of the great coaches of Chicago,” Briggs said Wednesday. “You have George Halas, you have Mike Ditka, and then Lovie Smith comes next.”
Smith (84-66) ranks third in Bears history behind only George Halas (324-151-31) and Ditka (112-68), so Briggs is right in that regards.
McCown signed this off-season with the Bucs on a two-year, $10 million deal after impressing as a competitor and leader on and off the field in his time with the Bears.
“I’m looking forward to it,” McCown said on Wednesday. “It’s fun, I have so much love for a lot of those guys up there, and anytime you get to do that, when you’re growing up and you get to go compete in the neighborhood against guys that you know, or growing up playing against your brothers, it just makes it more fun.”
All in all this game is meaningful for everyone involved.
The Bears want to win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, Bears’ management wants to prove that firing Lovie Smith was the right move and Trestman wants to beat his predecessor.
Tampa Bay has surely had this game marked down on their calenders for a while. Smith, McCown and Co. will be playing their hearts out in a game that should be treated like the Super Bowl for them.
The Soldier Field crowd will be wild as Smith and Trestman matchup for the first time and who knows if they will ever meet again as head coaches considering their recent struggles.
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