Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What's the Problem with Lovie Smith?

Now, when I ask that, I'm not asking what Lovie's problem is. I'm asking what it is that so many Bears fans seem to hate about the guy. He's now at 72-55, including playoffs, during his tenure as Bears head coach. He's made 3 playoff appearances, and (fingers crossed) appears to be headed towards number four. Those 3 playoff appearances are more than the Bears managed in the 11 damn years before they hired Lovie. He's done a tremendous job cleaning up the mess, and when his key guys are healthy, he wins. It's that simple.

So what's the problem? I get that Lovie makes some absolutely hare-brained decisions regarding fourth down attempts and challenges. How much of the job of an NFL coach boils down to those two things? Honestly? How many games do you remember the Bears actually Losing because of a poor decision in one of those two categories by Lovie Smith? Take, for example, the 4th and 1 they failed to convert against Detroit, that took 3 points off of the board. The Bears lost by 11. Didn't matter. I suppose you could complain about his failure to challenge Jay's fumble against the Redskins last year, but, much as I love Jay, that game boiled down more to his ridiculously stupid decisions than Lovie's failure to throw a red flag.

Sure, there was a rather dark time period where the Lovie Era seemed to be a disaster, and I too called for a clean house when they were 5-9 fourteen games into the 2009 season. That was two long years, and a 19-8 record in the last 27 games, ago. I've long since recanted. As I said during my bye week analysis of the team, I think Lovie's an excellent coach, who has the loyalty of his players. He's got a philosophy that he's loyal to, and, much as it can be frustrating when the pass rush is nonexistent, since the arrival of Julius Peppers it's worked as well as it did back in 2005 and 2006. He's made some tough calls this year, benching guys like Meriweather and Anthony Adams and cutting Chris Harris. All of them have worked out. Conte and Major Wright have stabilized the defense, and Adams responded the week after his benching with a career game against Detroit. At this point the Bears have faced the 6th most difficult schedule in all of football, and they're 6-3 (it's technically 9th, but Detroit, Tampa, and Minnesota's schedule are only more difficult because they've all faced Chicago, rather than vice versa). I think Lovie's doing a great job. It's that simple.

Another aspect of the Lovie Hate I find a bit difficult to explain is the fact that so many people lump him in with Jerry Angelo as though the two are joined at the hip. I have my beefs with Angelo. He's obviously a bit smarter than most gave him credit for, since guys like Lance Louis, Chris Williams before this unfortunate injury, Roberto Garza, and Chris Spencer have played far, far better than people expected, but that doesn't excuse the mess that his offensive lines have been for most of his tenure. Outside of Earl Bennett, the wide receiver corps is inconsistent at best and shitty at worst (I'm looking at you, Roy). Angelo is the guy responsible for Frank Omiyale's continued opportunities when Lovie's now benched him at various points in three consecutive seasons. Obviously they aren't both part of some kind of hive mind.

As a friend of mine pointed out today, even if you concede to the mob the fact that Angelo supposedly sucks at his job, talent acquisition, than that should, logically make Lovie look even better for crafting three (hopefully four) playoff teams and four (hopefully five) winning teams out of Angelo-built "shitty" rosters. So why blame Lovie?

I don't really have a conclusion here. I'm not stating definitely what the cause is for all this anger toward Lovie, since I honestly don't know. Why do those three disappointing seasons (and really that 2008 team was far better than it had any right to be) seem to count more than all of the good things he's done?

Oh well. Let the world know I'm still a fan of Lovie Smith. I hope most of you are, too.