Depending on who is telling the story, Lovie Smith's first day at Halas Hall back in 2004 included, in some sort or fashion, a jacket being presented to him that was once worn by George Halas. Whether this jacket was given to Smith as a gesture of kindness by Virginia McCaskey, or whether the relic was hanging symbolically in the coach's office upon arrival as a motivational tool has never been determined.
The former Chicago Bears head coach told a couple different versions of that story over the years, but despite the fuzzy details, one thing we do know was for certain: Virginia loved Lovie Smith.
And over the course of his decade coaching the Chicago Bears, so did his players. Lovie was known as a father-figure to his guys; a loving mentor who rarely raised his voice, but when he spoke, his words had power. There was never any doubt whether he had the support of the top of the hierarchy, or of the players in the trenches.
But fast-forward through his last few years in Chicago, and you'll see a repeating bell curve, if you will. Up and down, up and down, up and down... And stretches of time missing the playoffs. You can't win a championship if you can't make into postseason play.
So the decision was ultimately made to move on from Lovie Smith, despite him being the most successful coach in team history behind George Halas himself, and of course Mike Ditka.
Recently, Jeff Dickerson made a list of three pros and three cons related to the Bears firing Lovie Smith in 2012. It's a good list, and he makes a few good points.
But one thing jumps out-- the Chicago Bears record since they let Lovie go.
1. Win column: Smith went 84-66 over nine seasons (2004-12) in Chicago. He guided the Bears to three NFC North titles, and a berth in Super Bowl XLI. Since Smith left town, the Bears are 18-28. Ouch.
Sure, there are many layers to the numbers, but that doesn't change the fact that the Bears have had rougher years since Lovie's departure than what they had in his last few years in Chicago.
In your opinion, was Lovie Smith let go too soon? Should they have given him another year to build on his 10-6 record, despite not making the playoffs in his final three seasons?