Every so often I find myself reading some piece of commentary on sports (professional or amateur) that expounds the notion that if Team X made a change to get better, then Team X needs to do at least as well as it did before, if not better—otherwise, the change was a mistake.
One obviously example for Bears fans is the firing of Lovie Smith. An argument might go something like this "If we were 10-6 with Lovie, and if we have now added XYZ, then we need to go at least 11-5 or we made a mistake." Huh? That’s not the way the real world works. When things are a little broken they need to be repaired before they can be made better.
I’m going to use a series of simplified examples to show what I mean. I admit that these situations aren’t parallel, and that’s intentional. I am trying to simplify a very complex issue for the sake of clarifying a point.
Example 1: Exercise. Okay, this one is too easy and too simple, but it’s a great illustration that most people should have some familiarity with (I hope). If you work out, you know that when you are done your muscles are tired. You are sore. You can’t always lift as much after the workout as you could before the workout. Guess what, though? If you keep doing that (temporarily setting yourself back), you will gradually increase your capacity to do the work. Your muscles (or your cardio, or whatever) will grow.
Example 2: Surgery. A few years back I got to enjoy neuropathy and other pains, and as a result I could barely walk, let alone run. I needed surgery to release the channels in my ankles and to reduce the compression my nerves were under (there was also a tumor involved, but that was sort of ‘extra’). After the surgery, I couldn’t walk at all (not even a little bit) for over a month. Then, gradually, I started doing better. Last weekend I chased my son through the park in a race with minimal pain. Was my surgery pointless? Of course not. I needed to suffer the setback of the surgery because something was wrong with me; the setback was part of the process of getting to the point where I could run again.
Example 3: Home improvement. Ever install laminate flooring? A new toilet? Cabinets, maybe? When I built a patio I went from having a function yard without a patio to having a yard that was, at best, halfway usable. Then, after I finished the patio, I had a yard and a patio. It was kind of cool.
So, my point is this—sometimes things have to get worse before they get better. Something about the Bears wasn’t working. It has been way too long since Chicago was in the playoffs, and the Bears have made way too few trips to the Super Bowl in my lifetime.
Maybe the problem was Lovie Smith. Maybe the problem is Jay Cutler. One way or another, we weren’t getting where we needed to be. Removing a head coach can be a traumatic experience, kind of like surgery. It can take some time to recover from it. However, the setbacks that happen sometimes clear the way for future improvement.
Was firing Lovie a mistake? I really don’t know. I don’t understand the Xs and Os the way a lot of the guys who write for (or comment on) this forum do. I do, however, understand that real life does not allow perfect linear improvement with every ‘correct’ decision. If it did, sports would probably be a lot less interesting, I think.