BEARS: Lovie’s Out, Who’s In?

Chicago Bears v Arizona Cardinals

After nine years as the Chicago Bears head coach the soft spoken and level headed Lovie Smith is OUT. It wasn’t the best way to ring in the new year as Smith was fired by the Bears on Monday after a 10-6 season. Smith did quite a bit of good for the Bears in his time with Chicago, but his downfall was the part of the game in which he had no experience; the offense.

Chicago is now on the hunt for a new head coach and guess what they’re looking for…an offensive minded guru. Bears General Manager Phil Emery described his current head coach search as “fast, furious and thorough” on Thursday after conducting the initial round of interviews with prospective candidates. He held a press conference to discuss Lovie’s firing on Tuesday and was jet-setting to Atlanta for interviews almost immediately after.

Who are the Potential Candidates?

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It’s not required to have an offensive minded coach to be successful in the NFL. We’ve seen the defensive minded coaches get the job done as well, for instance Mike Tomlin, Bill Belichick and John Fox, even special teams guys like John Harbaugh. But if offense is the reason Lovie was booted, offense is what the Bears are looking for. Our defense is solid for at least another year with Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers, Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings all still under contract.

There are definitely other head coach openings around the league, but hopefully the Bears position is the most appealing to the potential candidates. Sometimes coming into an organization who believes they already have their “franchise quarterback” (Jay Cutler) and other star players in Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte takes some of the fun out of the job. Instead, we can only hope the large market, fantastic city and impenetrable fan base will lure the best of the best to lead the Bears.

Cleanin’ House – Or Should I say Halas Hall?

Overhaul, that’s an appropriate description of what occurred to the Bears’ management staff Tuesday. General manager Jerry Angelo, gone. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz, gone. Quarterbacks coach Shane Daly, gone. The only remaining survivor is Lovie Smith. After Tuesday’s press conference it’s rather clear who wears the pants in Lake Forest, Ted Phillips is running the Chicago Bears, not George McCaskey. Let us remember that Angelo was a Phillips hire. Should we be worried?

The biggest surprise of the day was Jerry’s termination, I think people expected Martz to leave or be fired. Angelo, relieved after 11 seasons, this 8-8 season not being the best for his legacy, did accumulate 4 division titles and one Super Bowl appearance. Chairman George McCaskey spoke about needing to close a talent gap with the division-rival Packers and Lions – we have to pickup the offensive pace. Angelo had a track record of extremely poor drafts, specifically on offense, and it caught up to him. After 10 drafts, only two first-round picks even remain on the roster, and offensive linemen Gabe Carimi and Chris Williams finished the season on injured reserve. Before Matt Forte‘s success this season, Angelo had yet to have an offensive draft pick make a Pro Bowl.

Phillips said the new general manager will have one restriction: Smith, who is signed through 2013, must be the coach in 2012. Looks like the Bears not wanting to pay-out Smith saved him his job for at least another year. Phillips also said Smith will be involved in the process of hiring his new boss.

According to a league source, the Bears have some considered GM candidates in conference as well as around the league.

Packers college scouting director John Dorsey and football operations director Reggie McKenzie have both been groomed by the impressive organization. The Detroit Lions pro personnel director Sheldon White and Vikings director of player personnel George Paton are also considered strong GM candidates within the NFC states the Sun-Times.

Outside the division, the Bears are sure to discuss Bill Polian, a respected judge of talent throughout the league and was just let go by the Colts. Others popular names for GM openings include Les Snead, the director of player personnel for the Falcons, and Eric DeCosta, the director of player personnel for the Ravens.

The Chicago Bears have some rather stiff competition as they are not only team changing management, the Raiders, Rams and Colts also have vacancies.

The REAL question here is, do we trust Ted Phillips to secure and hire a successful general manager for the Bears? We will find out soon enough!

Mike Martz: Will He Stay or Will He Go?

The rumor mill is starting to churn regarding the status of Chicago Bears Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz. With his contract expiring at the end of this season and quite a bit of offensive inconsistencies, many fans are wondering will Mr. Martz bite Bears dust?

During a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Lovie Smith snapped when asked if he planned on bringing Martz back. “What kind of question is that anyway?” Smith said, angrily. “At this time, what kind of question is that? Why would you ask a question like that anyway?” reports Comcast SportsNet.

Yes, the question was a bit out of line, considering coaching evaluations are not done until after the season is complete, but his reaction doesn’t bode much confidence on the return of Martz next year. Normally, we would expect a traditional “Mike Martz is our Offensive Coordinator,” from the smooth sailing Smith.

 I think this story might have a different tune if the Bears could have avoided so many crucial injuries. If you take a look back on the season, here is a breakdown:

  1. We looked impressive in our season opener against Atlanta – offense, defense, and special teams all successful.
  2. The next 6 games were a bit rough, not looking dominate in much of anything offensively. We skated by ending up 4-3 going into our bye week. Much of the criticism was pointed at Martz, looking like a stubborn old man who wouldn’t run plays that were working throughout first halves and not playing to his players strengths.
  3. After the bye week, the Bears came back and won 5 straight games, we had fewer interceptions, more QB protection AND increased TDs. The only team, who scored more averaged points per game during that stretch were our rival Green Bay Packers. We all had hopes of another NFC championship throwndown with Aaron Rodgers and crew.
  4. And then Jay Cutler’s thumb was ruined by San Diego, and we were forced to endure the Kansas City loss (who took out Matt Forte), the Tim Tebow and Denver comeback, the Seattle loss (which nearly paralyzed Johnny Knox) as well as our Christmas day demise by Green Bay.
  5. And here we are, our final game against Minnesota starting Josh McCown and with a laundry list of players on injured reserve.

So what exactly would be best for the Bears offense and their overall success? Do we fire Martz and put Cutler on the coordinator merry-go-round just when he was looking confident executing Martz’s offense? Martz is Cutler’s third offensive coordinator since being drafted to the Bears. If you look at quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady they have a few things in common: consistency, routine, confidence in the execution of their offense, and Superbowl rings. They have been able to perfect the original offenses they were given. I believe Cutler has the potential to be great, but would it be fair to throw another coordinator at him yet again? And if Martz stays, is his offense outdated and too predictable? Is Cutler better off with a new offense – actually having control and being able to call an audible?

I have to admit, I am happy this decision doesn’t lie in my hands. YIKES.