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Lovie Smith's Offenses Were Consistently Terrible

If anyone has been having doubts about whether or not Lovie Smith should have been fired, just look at the offensively offensive stats during his tenure.

Which way do I go, George, which way do I go?
Which way do I go, George, which way do I go?

Since the Bears fired Lovie Smith, there's been an undercurrent of condemnation from certain corners of NFL fandom and media that Phil Emery made the wrong the decision. An ESPN Sportsnation poll had 69% of respondents saying that the Bears were wrong to fire Smith. Interestingly, only the state of Illinois supported the Bears decision to fire Lovie. Heck, even Ditka himself denounced the move, calling it really stupid to fire a coach after a ten win season.

I have my concerns about the decision to fire Lovie, but ultimately its a sign that Phil Emery and company want the ceiling of future Bears' seasons to be raised from good regular season records to potentially deep playoff runs. Instead of continuing a run of mediocrity - five out of six non-playoff seasons but zero with less than seven wins - Emery is going all-in early in hopes that he's played the table correctly. And with the success of the defense and special teams under Lovie Smith, that means one thing: improve the offense.

To say that Lovie's teams were bad offensively is an insult to the word "bad." "Lovie Smith's offenses were so bad..." should be a running joke across Chicago Bear fansites. Seriously, who is worse: Lovie at leading an offense, or Jerry Angelo at anything?

But... enough digretion. Below we have a ton of data collected from each Bears' offense under the mis-direction of Lovie Smith. All information is collected from ProFootballReference and, and include rankings for a variety of offensive statistics. The last column is ProFootballReference's Simple Ratings System score, which determines how many points one phase of a team contributes above or below the league average. Full explanation is here. Prepare to be disgusted.

Year Record Points Per Game PPG Rank Yards Per Play Rank 3rd Down % Rank 1st Down Rank Yards Rank Passing Yards Rank Rushing Yards Rank Turnover Rank Yards Per Rush Rank PFF Simple Ratings Rank
2012 10-6 23.4 16 28 22 24 28 29 10 14 14 1.0
2011 8-8 22.1 17 21 27 28 24 26 9 23 10 -1.5
2010 11-5 20.9 21 26 27 26 30 28 22 21 23 -0.6
2009 7-9 20.4 19 20 18 25 23 17 29 29 26 -1.9
2008 9-7 23.4 14 26 25 27 26 21 24 21 27 1.1
2007 7-9 20.9 18 30 28 27 27 15 30 23 32 -0.2
2006 13-3 26.7 2 21 25 14 15 14 15 28 23 4.9
2005 11-5 16.2 26 30 31 31 29 31 8 17 7 -5.2
2004 5-11 14.4 32 32 32 32 32 32 25 27 26 -8.5

I included the team records to help illustrate the problem with bringing Lovie back: that while his teams have rarely had a bad record, the offense has been consistently and unabashedly terrible. I mean Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remake terrible. The Super Bowl season in 2006 was the only year that the following happened for the Bears:

  • Finished top ten in points per game
  • Finished top twenty in first downs
  • Finished top twenty in offensive yards

What's that you say? Lovie's teams always "get off the bus running?" Well, four seasons featured top-15 rushing attacks by the Bears (but never finished higher than eighth), and only three times did the Bears finish in the top-15 in yards per rushing attempt. The average rushing yards rank by Lovie's teams? 19th.

"But what about the points per game stat? The Bears haven't placed lower than 21st in the last seven seasons! So it can't be all bad... can it?"

Wrong, so, so wrong. Points per game ranks don't take into account defensive and special teams scores (which the Bears have had a lot of under Lovie) or the strength of his defenses. Here's a quick breakdown on the rest of his offensive stats:

  • Highest yards per play rank was 20th in 2009. Finished 30th or worse three times.
  • Finished top-20 in third down percentage rank once, in 2009. 27th or lower five times.
  • Average rank for first downs? 26th.
  • Average rank for total yards? 26th.
  • Had three seasons where the passing yards were top-20. Last three years were: 29th, 26th, and 28th.
  • Bears were a bottom-half team in turnovers allowed every year except 2012.

I get why people are upset that Lovie is gone; he had successful defenses and the Bears never really bottomed out. They were always close to the playoffs and rarely terrible (except on offense). But finally, after nine years of averageness and offensive incompetence, Phil Emery handed a pink slip to one of the best defensive head coaches (ever?) in the game. Now, for the Bears to strive for greater things, the team's new Head Coach will have to reverse decades of shoddy Bears' offense.