Lovie Smith is the Right Head Coach for Illinois


George Halas.  Red Grange.  Dick Butkus.  Usually the pipeline between the University of Illinois and the Chicago Bears runs from Champaign to Chicago, but with the Fighting Illini hiring former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith as their new head coach, the flow has been reversed.  The bold move by new Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman adds instant stability and credibility to an Illini football program in dire need of both.  As an Illinois alumnus and lifelong Chicago Bears fan, it’s the right move at the right time for Illinois.

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I was not the biggest Lovie Smith fan over the last few seasons with the Chicago Bears.  Honestly, I thought that Lovie’s message and his scheme had fallen flat with the Bears towards the end of his tenure.  He took the Bears to a Super Bowl while leading them to three NFC North titles between 2004 – 2012.  Smith earned Coach of the Year honors in 2005 as he turned the Bears around and returned them to the playoffs.  Lovie led the Bears to an NFC Championship in 2006 but lost to Peyton Manning’s Colts in Super Bowl XLI.

Lovie took the Bears back to the NFC Championship game behind Jay Cutler, but lost to the Green Bay Packers.  Ultimately, Smith was let go from the Chicago Bears because the Bears didn’t make enough postseason appearances and couldn’t get over the hump as his core players aged and new players couldn’t step up to fill the roles they were expected to fill.  Lovie couldn’t figure out the offensive side of the ball and didn’t deserve a chance to hire yet another offensive coordinator.  After the Phil Emery/Marc Trestman debacle the two years following Smith’s departure, it’s a miracle he did as well as he did with the pile of garbage he had to work with.

Lovie is the right fit for Illinois because he’s a man of tremendous integrity and loyalty.   You’d be hard pressed to find anyone involved with the Bears organization to say a bad word about Lovie Smith the man.  Lovie endeared himself to the McCaskey family and made his firing very difficult, probably staying a few years longer than he should have.  I don’t expect Lovie Smith to jump ship to find “the next best thing”  by using Illinois as a stepping stone job.  Lovie has been there and done that.  I think he’ll settle down in Champaign and stay as long as they’ll have him.

When Lovie Smith gets angry, he might drop a Jimminy Christmas or a gosh dangit.  He’s not going to abuse or mistreat his players the way the previous administration did.  Lovie will clean up the mess left behind by Tim Beckman.  Lovie can act as a father figure to these kids, many of whom need that type of direction in their lives.  Just ask Devin Hester about mentorship and what Lovie meant to him.  When Smith was fired, Devin almost quit.

Lovie may not be an electric or dynamic speaker at the lectern with the media, but he’s certain to do a better job than Tim Beckman did.

Kidding aside, is a player’s coach.  His player’s absolutely loved him.  Lovie will win over the parents during a recruiting visit.  If I had a son I wouldn’t hesitate to entrust him with Lovie Smith.

It’s not going to be easy for Lovie but I’m confident he’s the right man for the job.