By Dan Bernstein–
In a normal situation, it would be completely reasonable and understandable.
An NFL head coach is heading into the final year of his contract, fresh off a surprising 11-5 season that culminated in the conference championship game. His seven-year tenure has included three playoff appearances and a conference title. His record is 63-49.
To many, an extension of his deal would seem obvious – simply, a team doing proper business as any other would.
But this is not a normal situation.
CSNChicago’s John Mullin reported recently that the Bears are preparing to tack on more years to Lovie Smith’s contract. He will not receive a big raise, but the money is not really even the issue.
I’m preparing for a general acceptance of the extension, but with most of the conversation dominated by those expressing outrage.
Smith has the same share of raving, unhinged detractors as any of his brethren. Part of the job, of course, is knowing that a certain percentage of the fanbase will always be clamoring for your dismissal, often with no regard for the results. They will find bizarre ways to deny your responsibility for any success as they lay every failure at your feet.
What he seems to lack, however, are vocal, ardent supporters.
Even those of us who feel Smith is a good coach are quick to say he’s not a great coach. That’s why arguments about him fail to polarize like so many others. The aging Ditkaphiles scream and slobber for a coach who looks and sounds like their own projected emotions and desires, while level heads push back, but not hard enough to insist that Smith is something more than he has proven to be.
He won’t play politics with the fans. He has never had the desire to curry favor outside of letting winning do the talking for him. That trait costs him in a case like this, when so few will celebrate the continuation of his job, even if many agree he’s done pretty well.
He makes life easy for the folks at Halas Hall, for the most part. His teams are good enough, everyone stays on message (which is almost always some paint-by-numbers combo of “Nobody outside this locker room understands us,” “We have to prove [you media] doubters wrong,” or “We have been through so much adversity, and it brings us together), and veteran stars appear to respect him.
Though more teams have allowed a coach to reach his walk-year than in the past, there is always concern – especially in a large media market – that the games becomes weekly referenda on his employment. Each Sunday’s grand spectacle is a judgment of the coach’s future, and teams don’t want that. Looks like the Bears sure don’t.
Smith is not great. His in-game calls are questionable, his refusal to ever provide any real information about his team is maddening, and his defensive scheme may be falling prey to offensive evolution, not to mention the accurate passing of the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers.
But if one is something other than those in the thick-browed “Fire Lovie” Billboard Brigade, news of an extension is…fine.
With no specific alternative presented, and no insane, undeserved raise awarded, it’s a case of a decent coach being asked to continue being one for a fair amount of money.
Not exactly the kind of thing that sets off fireworks.
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. Read more of Bernstein’s blogs here.
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