Lovie Smith Legacy: Sadly, Lance Briggs is Right
Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
It’s reunion week as Lovie Smith brings his 2-8 Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Soldier Field to take on his former team. There are thirteen holdovers from the Lovie Smith era, which ended unceremoniously following a 10-6 2012 season. The most loyal among Lovie’s old crew is linebacker Lance Briggs. Lance has been in a reminiscing sort of mood the last few weeks when addressing the media and there was no shortage of love for Lovie when Briggs spoke to the media on Wednesday:
"“Lovie should be remembered as one of the great coaches of Chicago,” Briggs said Wednesday. “You have George Halas, you have Mike Ditka, and then Lovie Smith comes next.”"
That’s some pretty rare air, putting Smith up there with the founding father of the Bears (and the whole dang league) and the only coach to deliver a Super Bowl trophy to Chicago. But if you look at the numbers, Lovie Smith is in fact the third best head coach in Chicago Bears history.
In his nine seasons, Lovie compiled and 81-63 record, good for a .563 winning percentage. He made three playoff appearances, compiling a 3-3 playoff record. In 2005, the Bears lost in the opening round of the playoffs as Steve Smith ran circles around the Bears defense.
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Of course in 2006, the Bears won the NFC, but lost to Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl. The Bears went on a playoff hiatus from 2007-2009 before returning to the NFC Championship Game in 2010. We all know how that turned out, another loss to the Green Bay Packers. After failing to reach the playoffs in 2011 and 2012, Lovie Smith was let go by Phil Emery. The new Bears GM fired the third best coach in franchise history for failing to make the playoffs.
The sad thing in this whole tale is that the third most successful coach in the founding franchise of the NFL made three career playoff appearances. The the third best coach of the Chicago Bears won three playoffs games and could only muster a loss to the Super Bowl.
I was ready to see Lovie go about a year or two before he was actually fired. After reading Adam Jahn’s piece about Lovie in the Sun Times, I felt bad about rallying to have Lovie fired. It’s clear that Lovie was respected and loved like a father by the men in his charge. I wish I had known some of those things when Lovie was still around.
Many will remember Lovie Smith’s legacy as one of failures, of missed postseasons and offensive missteps. The men in his locker rooms will remember him as firm but fair, revered and feared. I’ll remember him as the third best coach in Bears history who couldn’t bring home a Super Bowl. That’s an indictment more on the Chicago Bears franchise than it is on Lovie Smith.
What do you think about Lovie? What is his legacy as the Chicago Bears head coach?