If you’re to take Lovie Smith at his word — and after all, why wouldn’t you? — there are no excuses remaining for the Bears head coach, and this should be the year the Bears win the Super Bowl.
Smith has a single playoff win since 2006, a victory over a sub-.500 Seattle team, and his claim to fame is the Super Bowl appearance six years ago when the Bears were fortunate to survive against the Seahawks before easily handling New Orleans in the NFC title game.
Since then, his teams have always given him reasons for the Bears’ failures.
No longer can he say he doesn’t have a quarterback, an excuse his supporters have tossed out often and effectively.
He finally has a No. 1 receiver to go along with a top-flight running back and an offensive coordinator who is both sane and flexible.
Defensively, the Bears have a pass rush good enough to get them to the championship game, a strong linebacking corps, and with Tim Jennings taking his game to a high level — perhaps the key to this year’s defense — Charles Tillman is able to focus on what he does best, which is take chances and locate the football.
As for the eternal question at safety, it’s unclear that it’s been answered, but this season it’s been less an issue than the last few, and with so many players in front of them playing well, they’ve been free to search for the football.
Of course, there is always the question of the offensive line. It’s been less than a disaster the last few games, mostly because Cutler is getting rid of the football quickly or running to daylight, and in part because Mike Tice is trying to take their deficiencies out of the equation with smart play calls.
Now, Smith will tell you that the offensive line is just fine. You would like to believe him, but he said the same thing last year and the year before that, when it was far from the truth.
And Smith is the same coach who insisted, “Rex is our quarterback,” Devin Hester is a No. 1 receiver, Cedric Benson will be a superstar, Kellen Davis can be a superhero and the most important thing in life is beating the Packers.
In any case, Smith is correct when he says his team is as good as any in football. Their offense is good enough to help the defense, which is the best around, so the excuses for not winning have largely been removed.
With smart coaching the Bears should get to the big game and win it this year, something Smith has yet to accomplish.
In that regard he has a lot of company among current NFL head coaches, but before the Bears rush into yet another contract extension, does Smith need to prove he can consistently make the playoffs and win postseason games?
You would think so, but what matters is only what George McCaskey thinks and to what degree he can convince Virginia.
We had heard last year that George McCaskey was a different McCaskey and that he would not sit still for underachieving Bears teams.
That turned out to be the case when he dumped GM Jerry Angelo, hired Phil Emery and decided to wait another year at least on Smith.
It would seem an almost certainty at this point that Smith will get another contract, but what if the Bears go into the playoffs as the No. 1 seed and don’t win it all, or fail to reach New Orleans?
There is no denying that Smith gets his teams ready to play, and there is no doubting the players’ love for their coach. These are not small items and should play a huge role in a huge decision.
Furthermore, he’s letting his coaches coach, and they’re coaching up a storm, another reason Smith deserves a lot of credit.
But winning must also be factored in, and on many teams it would be the ultimate and deciding issue.
If Smith can do that, if he can give Chicago its first Super Bowl in 27 years, he would certainly deserve whatever he can get.
ŸHear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.