By Rock Mamola–
It was announced, fans expected it, and now finally it has happened.
No, not the sequel to absolutely hilarious motion picture “The Hangover”.
This morning the Chicago Bears announced that they would be extending head coach Lovie Smith’s contract for two more years on top of the year he had remaining on his current contract. Lovie Smith will be the head coach of the Chicago Bears through the 2013 NFL season according to the deal.
The same head coach who little over a year ago was dead man walking with his own fan base has done enough in one season where the organization believes he is the man to lead the Chicago Bears in the right direction for the foreseeable future. Leading the Chicago Bears to their second NFC Championship Game in the last five seasons was enough to have the General Manager Jerry Angelo declare days after losing a chance to go to the Super Bowl:
“We very much want to extend Lovie, and the job that he’s done and the staff. Our focus, our intent is to extend Lovie.”
While some may agree that Lovie Smith is the right man for the job in 2011, I still do not understand what Lovie Smith has done to earn this extension.
Before the 2010 NFL season began it was playoffs or bust…not playoffs and extend. The feelings and emotions that come with three straight seasons of non playoff appearances following a Super Bowl appearance in 2006 left many Bears fans calling for change. Online social media groups such as BearsFansUnited were formed buying billboards demanding the McCaskey Family fire everyone. Simply put, Chicago did not support the head coach of their beloved NFL team.
As each game came and went this past season, fans (myself included) were looking for ways to discredit their own team even in victory. The dropped touchdown that was called a non-touchdown on Calvin Johnson in week one against Detroit. The 19 penalties on the eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers in week three. Playing three teams that had Jimmy Clausen, Joe Webb, Tyler Thigpen, and Drew Stanton at quarterback. Every single week the question was asked “Who do the Bears have to beat for you to believe in this team?”
Simply put, Lovie Smith could have gone 16-0 but still could not win over the fans who cheer on his team.
Finishing the season at 11-5 which was much better than any expert/blogger/fan would have predicted the season to have gone, the Chicago Bears had a chance to go to the Super Bowl for the second time in Lovie Smith’s tenure as head coach. Even in defeat in the NFC Championship game, the Chicago Bears gave fans what they demanded in the offseason…..post season play. I challenged Bears fans on numerous occasions either on my show (The Rock Report 670AM Friday Nights 10pm) or here on this very blog to tell me how this season could really be a disappointment when the team achieved everything you had demanded from them. Most readers/listeners agreed with me even in defeat to the “arch rival” Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game.
I cannot agree with the Chicago Bears extending Lovie Smith’s contract today.
First, the last contract extension Lovie Smith received was following Super Bowl XLI. That was the first Super Bowl appearance for the Chicago Bears in over 20 years and they got there with one of the lowest paid head coaches in the league (1.35 million in 2006). Therefore when the Chicago Bears signed Lovie to a four yr./22 million dollar deal on March 1, 2007 I was all in favor. It would have been a public relations nightmare if the Chicago Bears had not given a pay raise to one of the first African American coaches to make the Super Bowl who was the lowest paid coach in the league.
However since that contract was signed, the Chicago Bears have been anything but the contender they were in 2006. Three straight seasons of no playoffs and a season of break after break after break falling the Bears way throughout the season does not warrant a coach more time/money with a year remaining on his contract.
Lovie Smith is no longer the lowest paid coach in the NFL, in fact he is in the top five highest paid head coaches in the NFL at more than $5,000,000 due next year. Lovie Smith has compiled a record of 34-30 with one playoff appearance since he signed the new contract in 2007. While the teams he has coached have hovered around .500 for the most part every year, the division has always been a little better than Lovie Smith’s Chicago Bears.
Lovie Smith has never been able to have any consistency as far as his staff as well. Since he signed his last contract there have been three people calling defensive plays (including himself), and has had two offensive coordinators in four seasons. As a defensive minded head coach, his defenses did not rank in the top 15 for the three seasons following a 2005 season where they ranked second and 2006 Super Bowl journey ranked fifth in the NFL.
With no playoffs for three seasons following a Super Bowl, a 34-30 combined record since Super Bowl XLI, massive rotation in the coaching staff ranks and defenses that simply did not stack up to the ones that got Lovie his first contract extension…..one season should not equal a new contract extension. One season where the Bears did finish 11-5 but with one of the worst offenses in the league. One season where the Bears did finish 11-5 but had 100% health the entire season and could not finish the job. One season where time and time again, the Chicago Bears continually got break after break handed to them yet could not finish the job. One season……one lucky season is all it took for the Chicago Bears to say the franchise is headed in the right direction with Lovie Smith at the helm.
Lovie Smith has yet to earn the extension he was handed today. With one year left on his current contract and with labor unrest leading to possibly no football next season, what is the rush? Especially when Lovie is one of the top paid head coaches in the league and his resume since signing that deal in 2007 has simply not been good enough for the price the Bears are paying for Smith’s services.
Today’s news proves to me that Lovie Smith can do no wrong in the eyes of the Chicago Bears. He is the perfect organizational head coach. Does not say anything, never makes headlines with rants or outlandish behavior. Does just enough to keep the organization in his good graces.
For a football franchise with only one Super Bowl championship to its name, we have a sad example of a NFL organization in our “city of champions”.
John “Rock” Mamola is the Associate Producer of The Mully And Hanley Morning Show and Host of The Rock Report on WSCR 670AM The Score.
You can follow The Mully And Hanley Morning Show at twitter.com/mullyhanley
You can follow Rock at twitter.com/RockMamola
Catch The Rock Report every Friday night at 10PM on WSCR 670AM in Chicago or 670TheScore.com worldwide.