CHICAGO IL - DECEMBER 12: Head coach Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears throws his red flag to challenge an official's call against the New England Patriots at Soldier Field on December 12 2010 in Chicago Illinois. The Patriots beat the Bears 36-7. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Let's start by laying all of the cards out on the table. I am not now, nor have I been since the offseason after the Super Loss, an advocate for Lovie Smith. In fact, I've been one of his biggest detractors. I don't suddenly feel that the the Bears made the smart choice in extending Lovie Smith. I haven't warmed to the idea that one playoff appearance in the 4 seasons since the Super Loss is an excuse to extend a coach currently under contract, though I do hope with all of my might that he proves the organization right and me wrong... Oh, I've never wanted to be more wrong about something in my life.
Now that I've engaged in full disclosure, follow me below the ever-lovin' jump as we peer into the core of some of Smith's more memorable decisions.
Welcome, friends! Grab your popcorn and a seat and a stadium blanket if you need it. We're gonna take some time to look at some of the more memorable decisions that the Stoic One has made over the past couple of seasons. For those of you who came to see me fillet Lovie for ignorant choices, I am sorry to disappoint. Today we're going to focus on some of his better decisions.
We all know the list of mistakes, both real and perceived. But as I thought about what to write today, I came to two thoughts. I have written plenty of posts, comments and replies about what Smith has done wrong and I can't recall seeing much of anything about the good decisions he has made. Even in posts and comments defending him, there seems to be little in the way of positive things said about his decision making.
And that's when it dawned on me..............
5 6 Decisions of Lovie Smith's Since His Last Extension
6) The Windy City Flier Returns! I can't confirm that this was entirely Lovie's decision, which is why it ranks 6th and not higher, but I'm attributing it to him as I cannot see how Martz would have wanted less Hester to play with. Hester's role as a WR was diminished and his impact was increased exponentially. Watching him be "ridiculous" again was a thing of beauty, and it changed field position and the outcome of games. This was a great move, and it has Smith written all over it.
5) Releasing Alex Brown! This one, I can say without a doubt was Lovie's call. THere is no way that Alex Brown gets dropped without Smith's approval. And when it happened, we all thought it was disaster in the making. But Israel Idonije more than proved it a smart move. Izzy put up 8 sacks, 49 combined tackles, 3 passes defended and 4 forced fumbles this season in 16 games with 15 starts. Alex started 16 games with the Saints and recorded 2 sacks, 3 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery and 38 combined tackles. Smith made the right call, and it paid.
4) Releasing Hunter Hillenmeyer! I don't care if Hunter Hillenmeyer was the best backup we had (he was). I don't care if all three starters fall next year and the backups looked like Nick Roach did trying to lead the team in '09. This was still the right call. I wouldn't have said this before reading Hillenmeyer's statements, especially concerning why Hunter was put on IR and his premonition of his release at that time. That tells me that the he and players expect Smith to put such a high premium on their personal safety. Smith made the call to choose a person's well being over the depth and strength of his team. I will support that every time.
3) The Bye Week Change! Another decision that I cannot say with entire certainty came from Smith, but my gut and my understanding of Mike Martz say it did. Before the bye, Martz wouldn't even let Forte look at the ball. After the bye, the Bears ran much closer to a 50/50 split in the run/pass department. I have to believe that this decision was made by Ol' "We get off the bus running". And it made all the difference in the world as the Bears went on to win 7 of their last nine games.
2) Firing Himself! No, this isn't me being snide. This was a decision that few coaches have the humility to actually make when they should. Ask Charlie Weis. Whether Lovie has lost the touch as a DC or he just put too much on his own plate, the decision to replace himself as defensive coordinator was a move that shaped the defense this year. If a coach can hold even himself to that level of accountability, what does that say to his players? I think they got the message, don't you?
1) The Catch! For those of you who missed this thing of pure beauty, watch it here before reading on. Smith called what was the best challenge in the history of replay on that one handed catch by Marty Booker from around the defender while falling and being interfered with. Now, by the time this happened, the Bears were already up 17-0 against the leagues worst defense with an already 0-4 record en route to perfect ineptitude. So how can this be the top decision? Because Smith made that call for his player. It could have backfired. It could have cost him a timeout. They were up 17-0, but stranger comebacks have happened and nobody knew just how bad the lions were yet. Smith still threw the flag to get Booker the catch officially. Otherwise this just becomes a nondescript PI call. Those kind of moves make a lasting impression on players. Remember how all those players came out in support of Smith? Choices like this one are a big part of the reason why.
So there you have it. The best of Coach Smith's decisions. How do you see it?