Lovie Smith has been on the Bears sideline since 2004. He's been a good coach for the Bears, and has seen plenty of highs and lows. He took the Bears to the Super Bowl and two NFC title games, and he's won the third most games in franchise history.
However, he's never really won the fanbase over. He will never be held in the same regard as Mike Ditka or hold such a legendary status among fans. Part of that is his personality, but just as much of it is down to his performance on the sideline.
Under Smith the Bears have never had sustained greatness. There has been only one set of back-to-back playoff seasons (2005 and 2006) and too much inconsistency.
This season has to be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Lovie has been given so many chances and allowed a lot of excuses. The "blame the late-season collapse on the injuries" has run its course.
In 2010, it was seen as "playoffs or bust" and Lovie followed through. The same has been said for this season. New general manager Phil Emery wasn't allowed to fire Smith, but the understanding has been that it is once again playoffs or bust for Lovie and his staff.
This season is spiraling towards missing the playoffs again. After last season everyone wrote it off with "Well they were 7-3 and then Cutler and Forte went down and it all fell apart." It feels like people are trying to start that again.
"Well they started 7-1 but then Urlacher, Jennings, Forte and Lance Louis got hurt." But that shouldn't be the excuse. In fact it isn't as viable an excuse as the injury thing was last year.
No one has acted like Urlacher was playing at his old Pro-Bowl level before he got hurt. In fact, it seemed to most that the defense was thriving in spite of his play more so than because of it. Yesterday the TV announcers made it seem like the Bears were missing two players with Urlacher out. I hate to say it, but Urlacher wouldn't have made a difference in A.P.'s 154-yard effort yesterday.
Jennings likely wouldn't have made much of a difference either. The offensive line doesn't seem to miss Lance Louis as much as everyone thought either.
Matt Forte had his first solid game yesterday in a while but he's been far from dynamic this season.
At the end of the day, at some point this has to come down to the coaches. I understand that it's up to the players to execute but the coaching has been pretty bad. After last week's loss to Seattle, Smith admitted he didn't have the team as prepared as they should have been.
At some point Smith has to be able to coach up the players he has healthy. Teams like the Patriots and the Packers seem to get through many injuries and can win without big players. The Bears aren't missing their best players like Cutler or Marshall or Briggs or Tillman. Great teams can get guys to fill in. If Lovie has to rely on the same 22 guys for 16 weeks then he just isn't that great of a coach.
Yesterday seemed like the same old things; the team burned two first-half timeouts way earlier than necessary, the tackling was shoddy and the Bears defense could not slow down a completely one-dimensional offense.
The execution was poor, the play-calling suspect and just the in-game decisions were leaving a lot to be desired.
All coaches eventually run their course. By nature it isn't really a profession that has a ton of longevity. Personally, I think it's time for the Bears to move on and let Phil Emery bring in his guy and turn a new page.
Things like Lovie continuing to spew "Devin Hester is a no. 1 receiver" and "Kellen Davis can do what any tight end in this league can do" has hurt this team as much as any on-the-field decision.
I've liked Lovie and defended him as much as anyone. He is a good coach. But if they lose to the Packers next week (Which will be their sixth straight loss to the archenemy and was the first goal of Smith as head coach) and miss the playoffs again, it has to be time for him to go. The Bears seem destined to never reach their potential, even if they never bottom out with Lovie at the helm.