By Tim Baffoe- You Got Your Wish, Bears Fans, But Do You Know What You Got?
(CBS) The fabulous news trickled in across social media and radio waves from Tuesday morning into the afternoon.
Jerry Angelo. “Will not return as the team’s general manager.” Hooray!
Mike Martz. “Resigns from Bears over philosophical differences.” Huzzah!
Shane Day. “Will not return to coaching staff next year.” Who? Whatever.
You had probably been begging for all that for months, perhaps years. I certainly was out on the Angelo/Martz party a while ago (you do NOT want to know the party playlist on Martz’s iPod, trust me).
I texted the news to my dad, who was traveling on business, who responded, “Well, moe & larry R gone. Now curlee—ted philly blunt hed, needz a slap upside his head n a foot in his a$$ out da dor” (note: that may not exactly be the texting vernacular my father used, but it was the gist)
Since Ted Phillips was the one who gave Angelo his walking papers, I had to inform my dad that Phillips’ job was most likely safe. What I did not know until hours later during the Bears press conference featuring Phillips and Chairman George McCaskey was what Phillips retaining his job and choosing to retain Lovie Smith as head coach really meant.
Sports fans are often not unlike the citizens of tumultuous Third World nations you see on TV throwing rocks and burning leaders in effigy who clamor of regime change. There is joy when it finally happens, but often so much concern is vested in the ouster that too little is put into what fills the void, which often ends up being the same or worse than before.
All hail your supreme football leader, Bears fans. It is apparent that Smith rules Halas Hall with a velvet hammer, fronting to the media and public with his folksy blandness and the stoicism of a Winslow Homer painting, all the while swinging a big stick behind closed doors.
He has charmed Virginia McCaskey and her family to where he can seemingly do no wrong—he’s now survived a long, unsuccessful GM regime and been able to have what will be three offensive coordinators in four seasons and 28 new assistants since 2004.
Phillips and McCaskey more or less told everyone a familiar, Lovie-esque mantra—“Lovie is our quarterback”—when they spoke to the media Tuesday. McCaskey, other than being extremely unimpressive in his first big showing with the media and doing an equal-to-or-less-than acting job of the Walter E. Smithe brothers he resembles, said Angelo’s firing was Phillips’ decision and put the regime change all on the President and CEO of the team. Phillips said his complete faith is in Smith to fix the mistakes of this past season. He also said that it would be mandatory that the new general manager would have to both keep Smith as head coach for the 2012 season, as well as have chemistry with him.
The GM has to fit in with the coach? That’s an interesting chain of command. Phillips basically said everything but that the GM would have to be specifically Lovie-approved. McCaskey puts the task to Phillips, Phillips shifts it to Smith, and Smith… was noticeably absent. He was most likely sitting in the back of the Bada Bing with a cigar, pondering how to fix the family and facing his immediate reality.
Those “philosophical differences” between Martz and Smith? That’s PR-speak for “the two of them had a sit down, and Smith said “Mike, I’m not going to let you drag me down with you. I turn my back on you.” Phillips later confirmed that, only more dorkily. Smith played Phillips like a fiddle amid the embers of the 2011 season. He convinced his boss’ boss that the in-game problem was gone.
And then he let Phillips know that the other problem was up to Phillips to publicly rectify.
The lack of a capable backup quarterback sank a very promising football team and got some egg on Smith’s face. Lovie said more than once as the Caleb Hanie tumor fed on the healthy 7-3 tissue that there needed to be better play at, or that there was disappointment in, “the quarterback position.” That was him getting around our wire taps to say “Look what Jerry has given me.”
Smith has been able to operate with immunity through several largely unsuccessful drafts because a draft is always pinned on the GM. Those in the know will tell you more than one of the recent Bears busts was a Lovie pick more so than a Jerry one. But Jerry stood trial for those and was found guilty long ago—the execution was Tuesday for a man, remember, who hired just one head coach here—and that Teflon coach got off the hook.
Ditto for Gaines Adams and Sam Hurd.
I’ll pump the brakes here and let you know that I find Lovie to be a pretty good coach, and I am not concerned that he got to keep his job. A 66-52 record does not happen by accident, and the defenses he has orchestrated have often kept the Bears from being a semipro team. What does concern me is the power that has been allocated to him. Phillips’ description of a potential GM was basically that of a guy answering to Smith. In essence, you have a coach then who makes both personnel and game decisions. Smith will be secretly running the draft and free agency, presumably, while Garfield Goose stands tall before the man to say why every new Bear is “exactly the guy we wanted.”
With such an operation, though, perhaps the perennial Lovie haters who want the guy gone because not screaming and yelling on the sidelines is far more important than actual wins and losses will get their wish because of all this. With all this power, the suits at Halas Hall have invested fully in Lovie, and now there is nobody else left to whack if results are not pleasant (sound familiar, White Sox fans?). Even The Don can get got in the end. Sometimes it just takes eight or more years.
So for at least 2012 and perhaps longer you will be seeing the Chicago Bears Presented By Lovie Smith. Head coaches with too much power almost always end badly, with few exceptions.
Will Lovie be a benevolent, deified leader in the end, or will we talk of him as a reckless tyrant?
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget , but please don’t follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago’s Beverly To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.