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In Defense of Lovie Smith

I'm going to coach in 2012 and we'll go from there.
I'm going to coach in 2012 and we'll go from there.

The other day there were some articles and videos in the Den, followed by Dave Gilbert's excellent article wondering if a playoff-less 2012 season would be Lovie's last in Chicago. Now the poll results at last check were 65% "yes" and 34% "no" but I wanted to write about just how good Lovie is exactly. Lovie is only the 13th head coach in team history and his time in Chicago has been quite good. Perhaps it would be time to part ways with him after a disappointing '12 but I would like to make an argument that it's not.

As I said, Smith is the 13th head coach in Bears history. Entering 2012 he will build on his standing of third on list of consecutive seasons coaching the team at eight. Following last season he became the third-longest tenured coach at 8 seasons, behind George Halas and Mike Ditka.

So that right there tells you Lovie is at least worth a damn. But why is it, among Bears fans, that it's blasphemous to even use Lovie's name in the same breath as Ditka or Halas? Because he hasn't won a championship? Because he's only made the playoffs three out of eight seasons?

Sure that may be a good point. During Ditka's tenure with the team the Bears had a winning record seven times, out of his 11 seasons. This is how the rest of the division did during his tenure: the Vikings had 5 winning seasons, the Packers had 3, the Lions had 2 and the Buccaneers had 1.

In Lovie's stay in Chicago, the Packers have had 5 winning seasons, the Vikings 3 and the Lions one. Plus, with the four-team divisions it is more difficult to make the playoffs, because generally only two teams will make it from one division, it is unusual for a division to have three playoff teams. In any given season, Ditka had one formidable divisional opponent, where as Lovie has had 1 and an eighth but really that's more like having two other teams competing for playoff spots versus your own team and one other.

Furthermore, Lovie and Ditka share the same playoff winning record: .500. Lovie's teams have finished an average of 2.3 in the division, only slightly worse than Ditka's 2.0 in a four-team division.

If Lovie finishes out his current contract he will tie Halas' four-time 10 consecutive seasons coaching the Bears. In order for Lovie to lose his winning record, the team would have to go 1-15, if the team finished 4-12 he'd have a .500 record but would still be third behind Ditka and Halas in wins (yeah the coaching history of this team is two-deep). Other coaches with winning records are Halas fill-ins Ralph Jones, Hunk Anderson/Luke Johnos (co-coaches) and Paddy Driscoll, none of whom held the reins for more than four seasons.

Sure, Lovie is stoic and that bothers Bears fans who remember the fire and brimstone of Iron Mike and the few WCGers old enough to remember Papa Bear himself, but the man gets results. Having a firey personality doesn't always get results, for evidence look no further than Abe Gibron and his 11-30-1 record.

Maybe none of this will convince you but I know that there are any number of circumstances that would result in it being OK for Lovie to miss the playoffs this year and keep his job.

Lovie has made the playoffs three of eight seasons and made two conference title games. Ditka made three title games. Of his three playoff appearances Lovie has only bowed out after one game once, where Ditka did that three times. Sure, Lovie might have to win two or three Super Bowls before he got the respect of a Ditka or a Halas but I think he's the man to do it.

Lovie is better than people think and I believe he should lead the Bears for at least the remainder of his current contract. Stay the course, it's the better way to win in the NFL. Well as long as it's not Jack Del Rio or Marvin Lewis...