Bears should extend Lovie Smith: Who'd you rather have?

 

I'll reiterate the opening from my earlier post (as seen here).  If the only argument you have in regards to Lovie Smith is he has no fire on the sideline then don't even bother.  Unless someone can show me a correlation between being animated on the sideline or in front of the press room podium and actually winning games, then I think that stance is flawed.  If all you really want from your head coach is more fire, then I could find a bunch of passionate Bears fans that would qualify for the job.

 

Mike Ditka didn't win because he had fire, he won because he and his coaching staff had a sound system in place.  And he won because he had some outstanding football players.  The bird flipping, the spitting, the cussing, and the larger than life personality had nothing to do with winning football games.  I'd love a hard nosed coach like Iron Mike on the Bears because that would be entertaining, but ultimately it's about winning games.  And if Lovie Smith's 4 winning seasons in 7 years, his 3 NFC North Championships, his .563 winning percentage (7th best among active Head Coaches), or his 2 NFC Championship game appearances isn't enough, that's fine.  But be careful what you wish for, because there aren't many "can't miss" coaches coaching today.

The name thrown out there by many as a potential replacement is Bill Cowher, and I do think Cowher is a heck of a coach.  But I also remember when Pittsburgh fans tried to run him out of town.  Cowher had a great start to his career, 6 straight playoffs and a Super Bowl appearance.  But then in 1998 he went 7-9 (3rd place), followed by 6-10 (4th), followed by 9-7 (3rd).  Three straight seasons of mediocrity.  The ownership wanted to stay the course, because that's what the Steelers do.  And they have one of the best franchises in sports because of it.  Cowher brought them back to two more playoffs before the six win (3rd place) 2003 season.  And the grumbling started up again, with many wondering if Cowher was the right coach to put them over the top.  They stayed the course and finally got their 5th Lombardi trophy in Bill Cowher's 14th season.

The Steelers have had 3 head coaches since 1969.  Before Cowher it was Chuck Noll that took them to 4 Super Bowl titles, and the last 4 years they've been led by Mike Tomlin who already has 1 championship and is back in the big game again.  A big part of what makes the Steelers a great franchise is because they look at the big picture in regards to their team.  I'm not saying the Bears should stay the course just for the hell of it, and that's what the Steelers do, but because Smith's record is actually good in context with his contemporaries.

Besides the Steelers, another team that's always in the hunt is the New England Patriots.  The Patriots are great because of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.  Arguably one of the greatest coach/QB combos in the history of the game.  Coaches like Belichick just don't come around that often.  He was plucked from the Bill Parcells coaching tree, another great coach, so you would think if you just take someone that's coached with Belichick you should have some of the greatness follow to your franchise.  But think about all the failed head coaches that teams took from New England; Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel, Josh McDaniels, and Eric Mangini.  I wonder if the Baltimore Ravens franchise (then known as the Cleveland Browns) have any regrets from firing Belicheck after 4 losing seasons in 5 years.

The Colts have maintained playoff contention for most of the Peyton Manning years, and he's the biggest reason behind their success.  That's not to disparage the coaching of Jim Mora, Tony Dungy, and Jim Caldwell, but 11 playoff teams in 13 years for Manning is really good.

The Eagles are another team that has been near the top for most of Head Coach Andy Reid's tenure in Philadelphia.  In only 3 out of 12 years they missed the playoffs, and for some Philly fans it's not enough because he hasn't won the Super Bowl.

There are only so many truly great coaches out there.  Only 24 in the history of the NFL that has led their team to multiple championships.  And of those 24 I'd say less than half would be considered all time greats.  Should the Bears look for a all time great to run the team?  Are there any out there?

I could see the Bears wanting to take a wait and see approach with Lovie's contract, after all he does have 1 year remaining.  But coaching with a lame duck status rarely works out good.  Look at the Carolina Panthers last season.  John Fox was on the last year of his deal and Panthers didn't extend him.  I'm not saying that was the only reason behind their poor record, QB play would be my 1st guess, but you can't tell me it didn't have any effect.  Before the 2 win Panther debacle of 2010 John Fox had a .555 winning percentage, with just 3 losing seasons in 8 years.  After walking away from Carolina he was quickly hired to coach the Broncos.  If Fox an elite coach, I'd say no, but he's a solid NFL head coach.

If the Bears don't extend Lovie and the Bears have a poor record then you let him walk, no big deal.  But if he has a good season, then hits the open market, you may get into a bidding war.  I truly think keeping a staff in place is critical to long term franchise strength.  Would a change in coaching philosophy be best for their players, in particular Jay Cutler?  The kind of investment they made in Cutler would lead me to believe they want to keep things as they are.  He may never get to elite status as a QB even if things stay status quo, but I'd rather take my chances by keeping him in the same system.

Click here for part 3

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