Would Bears’ Emery really give Smith more time?
Assuming the Bears don’t win a playoff game this time around, it will mean a grand total of 3 playoff victories for Lovie Smith during his nine years as Bears head coach.
And that sounds like an awfully tough sell for GM Phil Emery.
Just try to picture Emery standing before Bears fans, speaking into a microphone, and explaining to the masses that Smith will be back for another season.
Emery would have to say that he has every confidence in Smith, that the current head coach is the right man for the job, and that next year will be the season Smith leads the Bears to their first Super Bowl win since 1985.
Maybe he’ll be forced to say it, by Ted Phillips or the McCaskey family, and maybe he’ll even believe it.
But that will be the end of his credibility with Bears fans, who already question the extent of Emery’s power. If he brings back Smith, Bears fans will believe Emery punchy or puppet.
That’s why, in the event of no playoffs or a single postseason game, I can’t imagine Emery will continue with Smith at the helm.
For what it’s worth, I don’t know anyone in the media who agrees with me. Most believe that if Smith makes the playoffs, the Bears will absolutely bring him back for the final year of his deal.
After 3 playoff wins in nine years, I can’t see it.
Coaches, like players, have floors and ceilings.
Smith’s floor is quite solid, to this point averaging 8.9 victories per season. He is a coach players love, and he is as steady as they come.
The problem is his ceiling. He ignores offense in an offensive world and he is quite conservative on both sides of the ball. His idea of innovation is a check-down to a running back.
In today’s NFL, it’s all about offense and confusion. The great coaches go into every game with a new plan designed to keep the opposition guessing, to ensure the other team is off balance and unsure.
You see it every week in the NFL, but you rarely see it with the Bears.
Smith believes he knows best and that his system works no matter who the Bears play or what the situation. So he sits back and watches, searching the sky for that elusive spaceship and rarely adjusting from the norm.
To borrow from Jack Nicholson’s Colonel Jessup, “I run my unit how I run my unit.”
He’s had plenty of success his way, and he’s not likely to gamble with something different, but that’s why his ceiling is what it is, generally a good regular-season record with few chances to go for the big prize.
For his part, if Emery and his owners want to keep Smith and his $5 million salary next season just to save money, Emery risks another lucky season for Smith and Co., and if that happens Emery is stuck with Smith for another three or four years.
On the other hand, this is Emery’s opportunity to start over and build the team in the fashion he desires. He can draft for a new style of defense and begin rebuilding an offense that needs considerable help, perhaps even at quarterback.
He can send packing many of Smith’s favorites, who have been overpaid and underperforming for years. To retain Smith means keeping many of those players around for at least another season.
Either way, Bears fans are demanding change and Emery will most likely have the opportunity to give them precisely that.
The flip side is looking into the camera and telling Chicago that Lovie Smith is the right man to lead the Bears into 2013 and beyond.
And that’s going to take one amazing sales job.
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