By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) Throughout Chicago, speculation has been flying fast and furious that last Sunday’s overtime meltdown against Seattle may have marked the beginning of the end for Lovie Smith’s tenure as head coach of the Bears.
Whether or not that’s true remains to be seen. Smith does remain under contract for 2013, after all, and as we all know, speculation can ultimately lie. But numbers? Well, they never do.
And Smith’s coaching numbers tell an interesting tale.
Following the Bears’ ugly loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Nov. 19, a friend of mine shot me a text asking, “What is Lovie’s record against teams with winning records?” I told him that I didn’t know, but that it certainly couldn’t be very good.
Turns out, I was wrong.
Smith’s record vs. winning teams isn’t just “not very good”, it’s downright awful – and probably worse than you even imagined. This week, I spent a few hours breaking down the Bears coach’s career record of 79-61 into thirds and examining how well he’s fared against teams with above-.500 records, teams with sub-.500 records and teams with .500 records.
For kicks, I then did the same for Mike McCarthy, head coach of the archenemy Green Bay Packers, with whom Smith’s Bears are currently tied atop the NFC North Division. Here’s what I found:
During his career with the Bears, now in his ninth season, Lovie Smith has enjoyed four winning campaigns. At 8-4 this year, he’s on pace to add a fifth. In total, Smith has won 79 of the 140 regular-season games that he’s coached in Chicago and compiled a career winning percentage of .564.
On its surface, that number looks solid. Strong, even. However, when you dig deeper, its blemishes quickly begin to appear. For example, with four games remaining on the schedule in this incomplete 2012 season, Smith has gone 49-15 vs. teams with losing records in his career (a .765 winning percentage) and 11-8 vs. teams with .500 records (.579). He has also posted a 19-38 mark against teams with winning records.
For those scoring at home, that’s a paltry .333 winning percentage in 57 games against his stiffest competition. Those numbers also show that just 40.7 percent of the games that Smith has coached have been against teams with above-average records. That’s a pretty favorable schedule overall.
As a point of comparison, Green Bay’s McCarthy is now in his seventh season with the Packers and has a career mark of 71-36 for a winning percentage of .664. During that time, he has enjoyed four winning campaigns and, at 8-4 just like the Bears, is on pace for another in 2012.
Against losing teams, McCarthy has compiled a record of 35-12 for a winning percentage of .745, which is actually .020 points below Smith. However, against .500 teams, he’s gone 10-3 for .769 clip, .190 points better than Smith. And against teams with winning records, McCarthy is 21-25 for a percentage of .457.
That mark is .124 percentage points better than Smith’s record against better-than-average competition. With 46 games against winning teams, McCarthy also has squared off against above-.500 competition in 43 percent of his career matchups, ahead of the 40.7 percent of Smith’s career games that have come against winning foes.
The old adage is that for a team to enjoy success it needs to split with the good teams on its schedule and clean up against the bad ones. Mike McCarthy has pretty much followed that blueprint to a “T” in his career. Lovie Smith, meanwhile, hasn’t been able to do the same.
How such numbers factor into the Bears’ decision about whether to bring Smith back for 2013 isn’t known, but what’s clear is how Smith’s career record looks under a magnifying glass.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.