Shanny, The Chin, Chucky, The Walrus........The Specialist? Who? If our beloved Chicago Bears decide to fire head coach Lovie Smith, should they go after a big name Super Bowl winning coach to replace him? The answer may surprise you......
Dick Jauron, a name familiar with Chicago Bears fans, was the first NFL head coach to receive his pink slip this year. The Buffalo Bills cut ties with their former coach after a 3-6 record to start the season. Immediately following the release of Jauron, the Bills contacted Mike Shanahan to see if he was the man to fill their vacant head coaching position. Shanahan, along with Bill Cowher, Mike Holmgren and Jon Gruden are all Super Bowl winning coaches currently being mentioned to fill vacant NFL coaching positions this off season. Those names sure sound nice, but history has shown us that no head coach has ever won a Super Bowl with one team and moved on to do the same with another.
Jauron’s successor, Lovie Smith, could soon have the same fate as his unemployed Bears alum. Though the Bears have looked awful at times this season, there still could be a good chance that Smith retains his job. The biggest factor in Smith’s favor is money. He still has two years left on his contract; if he was to be fired, it would cost the Bears franchise around $11 million. To this Bears fan, it makes sense to let Lovie go. To Bears owner Virginia McCaskey however, it might cost too many cents to let Lovie go. Added to the price of firing Smith, could be the high cost of signing one of the big name, Super Bowl winning coaches that are out there.
If the Bears brass is looking to hire a new head coach, maybe they should look no further than 1000 Football Drive in Lake Forest, IL. When Bears General Manager Jerry Angelo looks through his rolodex of current Bears coaches, he should look passed Rod Marinelli, stop short of Ron Turner and call up Dave Toub. Throughout the recent non-playoff seasons, the one consistently bright spot for our Bears has been special teams (ST); and the leader of that group is Toub.
Even though every year Toub’s job seems to get harder and harder, his ST units still flourish. He lost the greatest return man in the history of the NFL when Devin Hester got moved to a full time wide receiver; he lost his two time Pro Bowl special teamer Brendan Ayanabedajo to Free Agency after the Bears did not want to retain his services and with new NFL rule changes to start this season, he can no longer instruct his players to form a four man wedge to block for return men. Not to mention that year after year a ST coach is presented with a motley crew of back up players to work with, some of whom have never even played on special teams before. i.e, Bears back up running back Garrett Wolfe. Wolfe was placed on the Bears ST unit last year after only playing on offense his entire football career. What did Toub do with Wolfe? Turned him into one of the most valuable ST players on the roster. It just seems like players play hard for the guy and respond to his teaching.
At the beginning of this season, the Bears ST unit was a little shaky, not up to the standards we are used to. Now, 11 games into the season, with everything else that has gone wrong for our Bears, special teams is back as one of the best in the league. Kicker Robbie Gould and punter Brad Maynard may be the only Bears players that have hopes of participating in this year’s Pro Bowl. Not even our current head coach could make mid season adjustments to save the season.
There are not many other current head coaches in the league that went straight from special teams coach to head coach, only one comes really close, John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens. Ironically, before becoming the Ravens head coach, Harbaugh was the Philadelphia Eagles special teams coach/secondary coach; having Toub under him as an assistant. With Toub assisting him, Harbaugh went on to win the Special Teams Coach of the Year award in 2001, an award Toub would win five years later. Last season, Harbaugh’s first as a head coach, the Ravens were one victory away from the Super Bowl. In his second season, his Ravens have a winning record and are in the playoff hunt in a very tough division. Harbaugh’s team is very similar to that of the Bears. Both rely on running the ball, strong defense and a young quarterback with a big arm. I know it is impossible to say that Toub would have the same early success as Harbaugh, but the similarities are eerie.
For a Bears team that would be strapped for cash if they fire Lovie, Toub would come much cheaper than any of the big name coaches. He is currently in the last year of his contract and may be a hot commodity to other teams. It is highly possible that another team could offer him more money or a higher coaching position. In other words, an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Though costly, the Bears can afford to fire Lovie Smith, however, I don’t think they can afford to let Dave Toub leave Chicago.