I'm really starting to dread heading to my local watering hole on Sundays. Not because of the big group of Vikings fans who show up--they're actually pretty decent people. Not really because of the big group of Steelers fans who often show up. (Even though they're sorta a-holes.)
No, it's because of the frustratingly inconsistent product I'm seeing Chicago put out week after week. While I saw some flashes of true awesomeness Sunday (*cough* Cutler to D.A. *cough*), it's hard to explain to my pals who aren't Bears fans why they seem so consistently mismanaged. This game was a shining example, especially when it comes to in-game decisions. The most ridiculous of which involves a red bean bag, and has been discussed to death. But let's look at a little bit of Smith's history with that thin red cloth...
I'm not an expert on all of the rules for replay, especially those establishing a catch. As my good friend Cubman987 from these very comments and I have discussed many times--there seems to be little consistency in what is called a catch in the NFL. I've seen guys catch a ball, turn around, take two steps, dance a little jig, then drop the ball, and it was ruled incomplete. Other times I've watched a guy bobble a ball through the air, barely touching it as he hits the ground, and it's a complete pass. So I realize, there's a lot of personal interpretation going on during these situations.
This being said, I'm not really sure Lovie Smith actually understands how replay works.
Let's take a look at a few stats for Smith and the challenge flag. I'm pulling these stats from a couple of sources, given that I can't seem to find one perfect source for finding challenge info. If there is an error, I apologize profusely in advance.
2009-- 2 plays overturned, 7 plays upheld. Percentage: 22.2%
2008-- 4 plays overturned, 6 plays upheld. Percentage: 40%
Career as head coach-- 17 plays overturned, 35 plays upheld. Percentage: 32.7%
HE GOT WORSE!
Let's consider that number. If you're in school, and you get a 32.7% on a test, that's considered a pretty solid fail. If you're at work, and you do one of the tasks at your job incorrectly 2 out of every 3 times, your boss isn't going to let you keep doing that job. Yet Lovie Smith gets to continue doing just that.
I know, a little bit of this is going to seem like pure venting, and that's understandable. I realize that Smith isn't the only one who has a say-so in these decisions. There are people upstairs that are supposed to be supporting these calls. However, you can't justify a lot of these to me.
The choice that will end up haunting Smith, and quite possibly costing him his job, is that choice to challenge a play that really shouldn't have been challenged. Especially given this particular situation. It's really beginning to show a disconnect between the staff and the game of football.
The team has effectively admitted that they didn't know what they were doing. Says Cutler:
"You can’t second-guess that," Cutler said. "[Coaches] are probably trying to see the TV replay, and I’m trying to get the play. I look up and there’s 10 seconds on third down, so I’m going to burn one. Lovie’s not in my headset talking to me saying, ‘Hey, hold on a second.’ You can’t blame him for that."
Yes. Yes you can.
This is saying that in a drive late in the game, the coaching staff wasn't continually preparing plays for situations that could happen, realizing that time management and field position were crucial. Then you burned a timeout. Then you used the extra time that the timeout allowed to further analyze a play that shouldn't have been challenged, and then decide to go ahead and challenge it anyways, effectively preventing any further ability to manage the clock. Then, when you lost the challenge, you still had not drawn up an effective play to get the yards for the first down.
The cracks are glaringly obvious in this team's foundation, and they're crumbling the team away. Let's hope a true engineer makes it here soon.