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updated: 12/31/2012 11:19 AM

Fired Smith too arrogant for own good

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  • After nine seasons in Chicago, Bears coach Lovie Smith has been fired with one year left on his contract.

      After nine seasons in Chicago, Bears coach Lovie Smith has been fired with one year left on his contract.
    GEORGE LECLAIRE | Staff Photographer

 
 

Gigantic ego goes hand in hand with being an NFL head coach.

You would expect nothing else.

So Lovie Smith was hardly the first arrogant NFL boss who acted like he invented the game, that no player, coach, fan or sports writer could possibly understand his genius.

It's the NFL. Happens all the time. But usually it's with coaches who have won something.

Usually, it's coaches who have won multiple Super Bowls. Lovie Smith won precisely three playoff games in his nine years in Chicago.

He spoke like a man with a Bill Belichick resume, when his resume really reads like that of an old-school defensive coordinator, one who was not the Bears' first choice to replace Dick Jauron.

And that's why Smith is no longer the Bears' head coach.

He was fired Monday because he failed on both sides of the ball, unable to adjust defensively to the quarterbacks and systems of today, and unwilling offensively to join the 21st century.

He believed because of his grand defensive scheme that he could outwit every team and coach, and he got lucky a couple times.

The reality is he outsmarted no one. He got the break of a lifetime when Devin Hester developed into the greatest returner in NFL history, and he combined that with timely turnovers to average nine wins a year.

Mostly, Lovie Smith was very fortunate.

But his luck ran out, and when it did he didn't have the fan support so completely necessary to survive a bad season. He didn't have it because he never once tried to get it.

Smith forgot the first rule of coaching an NFL team, which is that you never tell the fans they're fools and don't know anything.

Maybe they are and maybe they don't, but someday you will need them.

This year when he needed them, Smith had few fans left on his side because his arrogance drove them away.

He spoke to the media like only he had the answers. He came off as dishonest and delusional, and when that's your only exposure to the fans, they have no choice but to disown the coach.

He turned smug into an art form, and it played a role in his undoing.

Smith got plenty of help, too, because there was no around to speak truth to power.

The head coach was insulated from reality, just as happens to mayors and presidents and actors and musicians.

When they are told over and over again that they are perfect the way they are, and can do no wrong, eventually they believe it. Even when they are wrong, there's no one to tell them they aren't.

This happened to Lovie Smith.

He really believed he had all the answers, and the sense of humility that was such a great part of his personality when he arrived in Chicago was a distant memory.

Smith truly believed he could ignore the offense in an offensive world, and win games relying on great special teams and the luck of the turnover.

Players loved him because it was a country club, with no fear of being called out in the media, something players hate most of all.

Consider that after a 21-13 loss to Carolina in November, Washington coach Mike Shanahan went after his players. The team had lost three straight going into the bye and was sitting at a disappointing 3-6.

"Now you're playing to see who is going to be on your football team for years to come,'' Shanahan said. "Now we get a chance to evaluate players and see where we're at.

"Now we find out what type of character we've got and how guys keep on fighting through the rest of the season.''

Shanahan was heavily criticized for the remarks, and, of course, there was no guarantee it would work, but the Redskins won seven straight and beat Dallas Sunday night to win the NFC East.

Smith's response to a free fall was to change nothing and tell everyone that all was well. Smith always knew best, and as he famously said when he dumped Ron Rivera, Bears fans should trust him to get it right.

He did not, and now he has paid the price.

I never rejoice in seeing anyone lose a job, but there's also no reason to feel sorry for a man who will take home $5 million next year to sit home and watch TV. He will get another job quickly on a staff -- or perhaps as a head coach -- if he so chooses.

But if this means we never have to see Devin Hester line up as a receiver again in a Chicago uniform, that is reason enough to rejoice.

Change has come to the Bears -- and not a moment too soon.

brozner@dailyherald.com

•Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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