They say that idle hands are the devil’s workshop. With the Bears on a bye this week and the usual business of weekly preparations for the next game shut down, rumors are swirling that the Bears are having discussions with Lovie Smith about a 2-year contract extension. I’m really torn about this deal, so I’ll present the case for both sides and see what you think.
The Case FOR a Lovie Smith Contract Extension
Lovie Smith is a player’s coach. But it’s not just a matter of him looking out for his players and taking it easy on them during practices and such. Lovie has total and complete respect of the locker room. Look no further than halftime of the Jaguars game, when Lovie “cursed out his team without cursing” and led them out of their first half funk and on to victory. Even a new guy on the other side of the ball like Brandon Marshall looks to Lovie as a father figure and someone he can turn to.
When we watch Tom Brady in New England or when Peyton Manning was still in Indianapolis, we would marvel at the precision and ease with which those offenses operate. Those teams had continuity and the systems were well established. That’s what we’re seeing with this Chicago Bears defense. It’s not a coincidence that they’re one of the top defenses in the league. Those takeaways don’t happen by luck. The core of this unit has been together forever and the man in charge is Lovie.
We, ok, I, I am always ragging on the Cover-2 defense. We’ve even named a spoof series of posts – The Cover Stew – after the much maligned defense. But you know what? It’s working and it’s not just about the aforementioned continuity. I was listening to Matt Bowen talking in The Score the other day and he talked about played for Lovie in the Cover-2. He said that it’s a helluva lot simpler than a lot of the other defenses out there.
The Case AGAINST a Lovie Smith Contract Extension
A Closing Window
The “Over the Hill Gang” as they’re called has been playing exceptionally well this season, but let’s face it, the end is near and the window for this unit is closing. The guys that make Lovie Smith look like a genius have mostly seen their best days. Is Phil Emery equipped to re-load the defense with a new set of players to carry the torch? Are there enough young players around which to rebuild a Cover-2 defense? Melton has been solid, but how much of that is because Peppers is beasting? Tim Jennings has been opportunistic, but how much of that is because Peanut is drawing the tougher assignments on the opposite side? If there aren’t enough players around whom to build this defense, should it be re-built according to Lovie Smith’s blueprint?
I know I was just lauding the system, but it’s a blessing and a curse at the same time. We’ve learned that certain players make the Cover-2 work. A middle linebacker that can cover a lot of ground. A dominant 3-technique defensive tackle. A stud pass rusher or rushers so you can rush the passes with only four. We’ve seen what happens to this defense when these elements are not in place – when Tommie Harris sucked, when Urlacher missed the season, when there was no Peppers. While the system is plug and play, you have to plug in very specific pieces.
Bottom Line Business
For all the good that Lovie Smith has done for this franchise, he’s missed the playoffs in five of the last six seasons. Let’s face it, this is a bottom line business. If things go sideways and the Bears miss the playoffs or don’t make a deep run, do you really extend a coach who’s missed the playoffs far more often than he’s made them? 2006 was a long time ago.
Lovie has a deal through 2013, so what’s the rush? Are the Bears really going to save a buck by trying to sign him early? And if you’re Lovie and you believe that this team is heading in the direction everyone thinks and hopes they’re heading for the postseason, wouldn’t he be wiser to wait until after the season to maximize your payday?
So what do you think? To extend or not to extend? That is the question.