By Dan Bernstein
Don’t let the results get in the way of a good argument.
At least that seems to be the rallying cry for the hardest-core advocates for a Bears’ coaching change after this season. Around this time last year, that group was represented by a band of mental titans waging a childish, haphazard, public campaign for a crudely-designed, out-of-the-way billboard, pointlessly urging regime change at Halas Hall.
Though that particular set of vermin has presumably scuttled back to dark, damp corners, the “Fire Lovie” sentiment still smolders amid grumbling about the Bears’ cheap division title in a lucky year.
For the record, it is Smith’s third such title in his seven years here. He is 62-48 as Bears’ Head Coach. He has taken a team to the Super Bowl.
Those still with pitchforks duct-taped to their hands, however, feel this year’s performance can be dismissed as mere fluke, and all it has done is blind the world to Smith’s failings. They compare it to the 13 wins Dick Jauron’s team posted in 2001, before he received a contract extension and achieved little thereafter.
The problem with that comparison is the two playoff appearances Smith has on his record, already. Jauron had two fifth-place finishes and a record of 11-21 before his outlier season.
Assessing the job Smith has done, then, must include this year’s work – 10-4 and fighting for better playoff position. It has to count as part of a fair evaluation of whether or not the Bears would be well-served to extend his deal beyond the lame-duck status of 2011.
I’m not diminishing the legitimate criticism of Smith – he’s a good coach, not a great one. His clock management, challenge decisions and player deployment are all fair game. Most importantly, he has not won the Super Bowl.
This is starting to look like a greener-grass problem, where many fans are simply tired of what they have. The idea of new leadership is enticing (and I am not ignoring those who want Jerry Angelo elsewhere, and are considering coaching-change as a means to that end), even despite the surprising performance of this team to date.
But I keep trying to zoom out on the larger picture, and what Smith has accomplished in a league where one struggles to know up from down not just year to year, but week to week.
To the entrenched Smith detractor: this year did not unfold as you expected. Smith’s arrogance and stubbornness at the press conference after last season infuriated you, and a pathetic preseason performance steeled your resolve and cemented your position. You have downplayed each win this year as lucky, only grudgingly giving occasional credit, even to a resurgent defense rededicated to Smith’s core principles.
At some point, doesn’t this year have to matter, somehow? Is any of it legitimate to you? If so, what?
Are you 100% sure, still, that the devil you don’t know is better than the devil you do?
It’s OK to not be as certain as you once were.
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM.
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