There is no doubting the general feeling of optimism when considering the Bear's fortunes this coming season. It is widely acknowledged that the Bears have a very good looking offense (on paper), and the defense still should have enough left in the tank to stay competitive. So, without wishing to be a harbinger of doom, let's play out a worst case scenario and assume that Chicago doesn't make the playoffs. With all the talent the Bears possess, something must have gone wrong. And someone will have to be at fault. And that someone could well be head coach Lovie Smith.
It's the same in any sport, or indeed the business world. You can't fire the entire workforce if results don't go your way. And you can't tell an entire roster of football players that their services are no longer required if their season falls flat on its face. So, this is why head coaches get fired.
But the head coach doesn't take to field and actually play the game, I hear you cry. And while that is true, he assumes the position of overseeing everything that takes place. The buck stops with the head coach, and that's the way it has to be.
Could this be a 'hot-seat' year for Lovie Smith? Will the Bears organization be expecting nothing less than a playoff run, hopefully culminating in a Super bowl victory?
Lovie has been the head coach of the Chicago Bears since 2004, and has a regular season win-loss record of 71-57. He has coached the Bears to three NFC North titles, and one NFC championship, which then saw them losing to the Colts in the 2006 Super bowl. ( I'll still never forget that Hester touchdown return!!).
So, in eight season, the Bears have been to the playoffs three times. I think we all would have hoped for better than that, right?
But the NFC North is an increasingly difficult division. Green Bay are one of the best teams in the league, the Lions don't suck any more (unfortunately), and the Vikings have enough weapons (well, maybe only Adrian Peterson), to remain tricky to beat.
Currently, Lovie Smith has another year left on his contract after this coming season, but that's not to say the powers that be won't be expecting great things this year. New general manager Phil Emery has done well to provide Smith and the rest of the coaching staff with some potent offensive weapons that should make not reaching the playoffs difficult to explain.
And that is the job of coaches. They have to earn their money by getting the best out of the players they are provided with. Working hard to ensure elite players such as Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall fulfill their potential. And also finding diamonds in the rough, and getting the best out of players that might not have the greatest natural ability.
I have said it before, but I have no problem saying it again: the Bears have to succeed this year. And by succeed, I mean nothing less than making the playoffs. I think the schedule is favourable and I would be expecting them to be looking at between ten and twelve wins at the very least. Anything less than that would be a disappointment.
But will that be enough to see them through to the post season? Well, that depends on how well the other teams do. The Packers' schedule doesn't look particularly tough, but they have games against the Giants, the Saints and the 49ers which could pose problems. And let's not forget that Green Bay's defense wasn't exactly outstanding last season. They rely a lot on Aaron Rodgers, and while he may be a future hall of famer, he's only human, and perhaps the pressure gets to him. Or he gets injured.
So, what's the consensus? If the Bears fail to make the playoffs this year, should Lovie Smith be given another crack of the whip? Or is he currently downing shots in the last chance saloon?