Before you start rolling your eyes, saying, “he’s at it again” hang with me for a bit. If you’re a long time reader of this site (and if you’re not shame on you) you know I used to write a little blog for ChicagoNow called FIRE LOVIE SMITH. I’m not gathering the torches and pitchforks and calling for Smitty’s head, but I am keenly aware that there is a new boss at Halas Hall who might have something to say about the head coach in 2013 and beyond.
When the Bears began their search for a new GM, one of the restrictions was that he would inherit head coach Lovie Smith for the 2012 season. It’s believed that kind of limitation may have hurt in the recruiting process but despite that, they seem to have found a halfway decent guy in Phil Emery.
Emery has impressed so far in his very limited tenure with the Brandon Marshall trade and shoring up some areas of need in both free agency and the draft. One area onto which he hasn’t been able to put his stamp is the coaching staff.
Who knows, he and Lovie may see eye to eye and they sign Lovie up for another juicy extension? But at the same time, Emery may want to put his stamp on the Chicago Bears. That’s what real GM’s do. This all has a very familiar ring to it.
Flash back to 2001. Rather than re-hash it, I’ll turn to my friends at ChicagoBearsHistory.com 2001 season recap:
Preseason 2001 started with turmoil, much as Bears fans are used to. Mark Hatley, then Bears VP of Player Personnel, ran his final draft in April 2001. Rumors had been flying for months that Hatley was dissatisfied with Bears’ management and wanted to leave. Publicly, though, no one involved would admit there was a single problem. During the draft, he made a solid selection by taking Michigan WR David Terrell, who was an absolute surprise to last to the Bears’ seventh pick in the first round. In the second, a questionable pick was made with the selection of Terrell’s teammate, running back Anthony Thomas. Thomas was rated as a durable straight-line runner with questionable speed and moves. Why pick another Curtis Enis, many said. Hatley completed the draft by selecting two offensive linemen, a defensive end, and the fastest man in the draft who had tested positive for marijuana.
In May, a press conference was called to announce Hatley’s “mutual termination”, a term that seemed to be coined by this Chicago Bears organization that seemed to be in utter disarray. Hatley stated that he was tired of losing, and felt partially responsible, so thought it would be best to leave the organization. Team President Ted Phillips agreed, and released Hatley. Interestingly, Hatley caught on with the same title in Green Bay, and his first move was to sign DT Jim Flanigan, whom was his very last cut in Chicago. Phillips announced the Bears would be hiring a bonified General Manager for the first time since the 1986 season. As the Bears don’t seem to do anything without being controversial, Phillips declared the organization would be paying an executive search firm over a quarter-million dollars to screen prospective candidates, and the search would take over a month. After choosing between Philadelphia personnel man Tom Modrak, Denver director of college scouting Ted Sundquist, Tampa personnel man Jerry Angelo and others, Phillips finally named Angelo the teams’ new GM in mid-June. At the press conference announcing the Angelo hire, he stated that anything for 2001 would only be “fine tuning”.
If Angelo’s moves from June to the opening of the season were “fine tuning”, we would hate to see his wholesale housecleaning! The new GM promptly traded troubled QB Cade McNown to the Miami Dolphins for a song, and cut higher-priced and popular veterans Mike Wells, Bobby Engram and Barry Minter. Even CB Thomas Smith, signed in 2000 for $22 million, was shown the door in a smart move after Smith’s inconsistent (at best) play the season before. While these moves proved to be necessary to shed salary from underproductive players as well as develop young talent, many saw them as Angelo’s way to ensure a poor season from Coach Dick Jauron. Most believed Angelo wanted to see Jauron fail so he could hire his own coach in 2002.
While Emery hasn’t shaken things up quite as much as Angelo did when he rolled into town, make no mistake about it – the pressure is on Lovie Smith. Say what you will about the talent that Jerry put around Lovie during his tenure. Lovie is a better coach than I had given him credit in the past. He’s done a lot with major deficits holes on his roster. Fair or not, Lovie faces his last stand in 2012. Will his players respond like Dick Jauron’s did? A big difference between 2001 and 2012? The 2001 Bears weren’t expected to do anything while there are really high hopes for this season’s squad. Let’s hope for Lovie’s sake this Bears team delivers.
What do you think? Is it good to have Lovie on the hot seat? Do you think it’s a win or go home situation for Smith?