We Should Embrace Lovie Smith, Jerry Angelo
by, 02-21-2011 at 09:14 PM (2676 Views)
We Should Embrace Lovie Smith, Jerry Angelo
(Above: Lovie Smith, head coach of the Chicago Bears; Below: Jerry Angelo, GM of the Chicago Bears)
Ever since I have been a contributing member of DaBears.com, I have noticed a growing trend in several of the members of this site. Many people who are key contributors to the forums believe that the Chicago Bears are in dire straits because of a lack of a good foundation that starts at the head coaching and general manager positions. Those positions are held by Lovie Smith, who has been the head coach since 2004, and Jerry Angelo, who has been the GM since 2001 . Coach Smith was brought here with two things in mind to achieve: to get us to a Super Bowl, and to reignite Chicago's fire in the long-running rivalry against the Packers. So far, those missions have been accomplished; in seven seasons, the Lovie Smith led Bears have been to one Super Bowl (Super Bowl XLI), and have amassed a record of 8-7 against the typically competitive Green Bay Packers, who had previously won 21 out of 24 contests during the bulk of the Brett Favre era. Yet, despite these results, and because the Bears experienced a three year period of mediocrity between the Super Bowl appearance of 2006 and this season's NFC Championship Game berth, some of the fans on this site continue to castigate and deliver harangues regarding his and, to at least an equal extent, general manager Jerry Angelo's, job performances. One poster on the site started a thread saying that he is ashamed of being a Bears fan in a knee jerk reaction to Chicago's loss to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game. This behavior is disturbing, disgusting, and in my opinion, unforgivable.
I, for one, will never look upon this team with any degree of shame or ill-will. The Bears created a foundation upon which to build for next season's greater successes. We won the NFC North Division title, and made it back to the NFC Championship Game for the first time in four years. Could the season have gone better? There were perhaps three games in the regular season that the Bears threw away because of poor execution from the offensive line as well as poor playcalling from Mike Martz (Seattle, Washington, and Green Bay #2). If the Bears had won those games knowing about them what is known now, they would have finished with a sterling 14-2 record, and would have probably hosted the either the New York Giants or the Philadelphia Eagles in the Divisional Round. More over, the Bears would have been the #1 overall seed in the NFC, and who in the media would have dared criticize the team to the point of bordering on persecution? Sure, they would have been grilled over the losses to the Giants and the Patriots, but that is the life of the professional Monday Morning Quarterback. Still, we should remember what a ride this season was before losing all faith in the team.
What people do not realize is that in seven seasons, with less than an abundance of quality talent at the skill positions, Coach Smith has managed to guide the Bears to four winning records, three NFC North Division titles, two NFC Championship Game appearances, and a berth in Super Bowl XLI. In 2004, he inherited all the bad apples from the Dick Jauron regime and finished with a paltry 5-11 record. Out of that came a decent draft by Jerry Angelo, and the Bears finished with big seasons the next two years, though they still never had the big offenses that other successful teams in the playoffs enjoyed. In 2006, with arguably the worst starting quarterback in the league and in the history of the Super Bowl at the helm in Rex Grossman, Coach Smith led the Bears to the NFC Championship on the legs of his two stud runningbacks and the league's top defense and special teams. Though they lost in the Super Bowl, it was the most successful season the Bears had enjoyed since 1985, when the franchise won its only Super Bowl under coach Mike Ditka. With all of those things taken into consideration, we should give thanks and praise to Lovie Smith for all that we have enjoyed over the years.
Times were tough the following three seasons. Records of 7-9 (2007), 9-7 (2008), and 7-9 (2009) raised the ire of Bears fans all over the nation. Heck, even I questioned whether Lovie had lost his intensity since earning the huge pay raise in the days and weeks following Super Bowl XLI. However, one thing always redirected my mode of thinking when I thought of what Lovie Smith was as a coach: he could have Bob Babich and Ron Turner calling plays all he wanted, but the Bears defense and offense were only going to be as successful as the players' talent levels warranted. Finally, in 2009, Jerry Angelo decided to become more proactive in his dealing with the team, and he traded two years worth of 1st Round picks and QB Kyle Orton for the talented-but-raw Jay Cutler. Though Cutler struggled in his first season in Chicago, averaging an interception with every touchdown pass (26 TDs to 26 INTs), I never lost faith in the team, because I knew that he needed to get comfortable in an offensive scheme. When Angelo signed Julius Peppers, Chester Taylor, and Brandon Manumaleuna, it was a sign that the organization was committed to moving forward with building a team that would eventually compete to play in Super Bowls. When Lovie Smith and the front office conferred over the past two seasons to sign three coaches who were not only strong assistant coaches, but also were former head coaches (Rod Marinelli, Mike Martz, and Mike Tice), it was another indicator that this team did not intend to sit by idly and lose to the extent that they did from 1992-2004. All of this beared fruit in 2010; Chicago won its first division title in four years, and were a Caleb Hanie "pick-6" to B.J. Raji away from possibly winning the NFC Championship Game with a 17-14 score, should the Bears have driven the length of the field at the end of the game without faltering.
Know this: I fully expect that Jerry Angelo will make some big moves this offseason. He will get either a big 1st Round draft pick or a couple of big free agents to beef up the weak areas of this team. I fully expect that he will go after Logan Mankins and possibly even Nnamdi Asomugha if the price is well-within our range. I think he will confer more with Mike Martz, Mike Tice, and Rod Marinelli on the big positions that we need, and I think he will coordinate his efforts with Tim Ruskell on matters with the offensive line as well. Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith are on the cusp of building some very strong teams here for the future if they maintain this kind of focus and intensity in the offseason. They cannot afford to be cheap in signing free agents when it is warranted, and they must do a better job in drafting players at skill positions on offense and defense in the higher rounds. If we do all of this, and I don't see why the precedent of being proactive will fade away from the levels we've seen over the past two offseasons this Spring and Summer, and provided that the creeks don't rise and we have a lock-out instead of business as usual, then I see no reason for us to not be back challenging the favored Packers for the division title next season.
All is not lost, people. You have to have faith in your team, else you are like the majority of University of Tennessee football fans are here in Knoxville when things are not going well: you become a fair-weathered fan. I cannot stand fair- weathered fans. Having faith in your team means having faith in Lovie Smith as your coach. He is the main reason we have won more often than not over the past six seasons. He is the tie that binds. To use a popular cliche thrown out by Baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, Coach Smith is "the straw that stirs the drink." While Jerry Angelo is in no way a perfect general manager - his track record for drafting quality talent in the first few rounds is putrid to say the least - what talent he has managed to amass in his time as the Bears' GM, especially in the lower rounds, is no doubt impressive. He has made deals the past two years that have taken the Bears light years ahead of where they were from 2007-09, when the team was aging. To doubt that Jerry Angelo does not have the team's best interests at heart is a blatant act of tomfoolery. Keep in mind that all of these teams the Bears have produced that won division and conference championships in recent years were part of Angelo's careful planning. I do not mean to echo the voice of Larry Mayer as I write this.0 BEAR DOWN!, 0 High Fives, 0 Like, 0 Dislikes, 0 Fap, 0 Facepalm