CHICAGO (CBS) — Bears general manager Phil Emery said Tuesday it was a “tough decision” to fire Lovie Smith as head coach after nine years on the job, but he said the team did not have enough offensive success under Smith, and it was time to go in a new direction.
“It was a tough decision, because I have great respect for Lovie; the person he is, the man he is, and the coach he is,” Emery said Tuesday at Halas Hall. “He’s had a good run of nine years of very competitive teams, teams that presented themselves with class. He’s had a lot of defensive excellence during the course of that run. He’s had Super Bowl teams, he’s had playoff teams – three divisional championships.”
The Bears announced Monday that Smith would not return as head coach next season. In nine seasons with Smith at the helm, the Bears reached the playoffs three times, compiling a record of 81-63 (.563). They reached Super Bowl XLI after the 2006 season, but lost to the Colts, and have been to the playoffs only once since then.
Emery praised the team’s defensive success under Smith, noting the Bears led the NFL in takeaways during his tenure, but he said the team did not have enough offensive success during that time.
“Our number one goal always has to be to win championships. And to win championships, we must be in contention on a consistent basis. And to be in contention, we have to be in the playoffs on a consistent basis. … Five out of the last six years, we have not been there,” Emery said. “We have had defensive excellence, however during the course of Coach Smith’s career … we haven’t had the balance between our defensive excellence – we’ve had special teams excellence – we have not had consistency on the offensive side of the ball.”
Emery said he was not ruling out any potential candidates, whether at the professional or college level, or if the person has been strictly an offensive, defensive or special teams coach.
“We are working through a wide variety of people. No one has been excluded. It’s an open process,” Emery said. “The number one criteria is excellence in their role, whatever that role is.”
He also said he would not rule out promoting an existing Bears coach to the head coaching job.
“We have some excellent coaches on our staff, and I’m not excluding anybody,” he said.
Emery said the team has lined up interviews with coaching candidates both this week and next week, but also said some candidates might not be available for interviews until after the playoffs – meaning some candidates are coaches on current playoff teams.
Although he would not set a specific timetable for hiring a new head coach, Emery said he was “going to do everything with a sense of urgency.”