Full disclosure: I am not a Lovie Smith fan. I have stated many times I believe he disguises an unearned, stubborn arrogance with a premeditated, fraudulent “aw shucks” presentation to the media and fans. I think his defensive strategies lack aggression, lack excitement and will always lose out to the elite quarterback in the big spot. I think his offensive strategy amounts to allowing Jerry Angelo to pick the players as he subsequently complains when the coordinator he hires (Shea/Turner/Martz) refuses to call enough runs to meet his liking. He has won games, I know, but I will continue to argue that there are many coaches around this country who could have won more with this talent he’s possessed during his tenure.
But Lovie Smith is the head coach of the Chicago Bears and every Sunday I root for him to become the greatest coach this organization has seen since Halas. Every Sunday I hope Smith will suddenly out-scheme the guy wearing the headset on the other sideline. Every Sunday I pray the Bears will come out of the halftime locker room a better team than went into the halftime locker room. Then a game like Sunday happens.
Don’t blame Mike Martz for calling too many pass plays. That is the equivalent of blaming a raging drunk for pounding too many shots of Bushmills on a Thursday afternoon. Someone has to pour those shots. Someone has to take his money and say, “Go right ahead, Pal. Keep drinking.” Lovie is wearing a headset and hears the words leaving the mouth of Martz as they enter the ears of Jay Cutler. Martz wants the whiskey. He orders the whiskey. But Lovie doesn’t bother pouring the booze out. He just hands him the bottle. And then in the postgame presser (once the drunk has pissed on the floor) and to the Bears media the following day (after he has woken up in the local drunk tank), Lovie complains Martz didn’t mix in enough water to keep hydrated.
Bill Belichick is the league’s best coach and arguably the greatest to ever coach the sport and one thing is clear with Belichich: every detail of the New England Patriots bears his stamp. (That’s why most people can’t even name his coordinators.) The head coach is an NFL team is unlike the head coach in any other sport. He is the identity of the team on game day. If these are truly Lovie Smith’s Chicago Bears, events like Sunday can no longer take place. He must be fully responsible, fully in control. He must be ready to turn Martz off and take over the playcalling duties himself. If that’s not his thing, he must have someone on that sideline ready to relay what he wants to the quarterback.
Lovie’s not going to get the opportunity to hire another coordinator on either side of the ball unless he wins big. He’s not going to get the opportunity to coach the next generation of Chicago Bears defenders unless he wins big. And right now we’re reading an awful lot about Rod Marinelli’s impact on Henry Melton, Mike Tice’s grooming of a young offensive and Mike Martz creating offensive approaches on the fly. But what the hell are we hearing about the man in charge? Nothing. Where does he fit into all of this? Nowhere, apparently. He’s barely even allowed to toss the red hanky any longer when he inaccurately reacts to a referee’s call.
But make no mistake about it. This is Lovie Smith’s career on the line. His legacy. One would think he’d like some say on the matter. I know I would.