Lovie Smith's career path made perfect sense for many years-- he started as a high school coach, spent a few years working his way through the college ranks (notably never a college head coach though), and of course finally made it to the big leagues as a defensive assistant and then head coach.
Ten years ago, he was 47 years old, had his team in the Super Bowl, and was named AP NFL Coach of the Year. If ever Lovie was in his prime, that would be the time.
He was the head coach of the Chicago Bears, and had put together an incredibly tough defense (some would say at the expense of developing the offense). That 2006 season was fun to watch, and Lovie was credited with developing some lesser-talented players into starters, particularly working with the linebackers and defensive backs when he had extra time.
Lovie's demise came around the same time former general manager Jerry Angelo's did-- they'd worked together in Chicago for over 10 years, and the team had failed to keep up with the evolution of the NFL. Smith was let go by Chicago after the 2012 season, and he took one year off from coaching while still getting paid by the Bears for the final year he was owed on his contract.
Fast-forward to 2014, and it was no surprise to see Smith among the hottest head coaching candidates on the market, and what a perfect fit it seemed to be finding a home in Tampa Bay.
Two seasons later, Lovie was fired by the Buccaneers, and his future in the NFL was uncertain. Would he take a step back and become a defensive coordinator? Would someone hire him again as a head coach?
The University of Illinois came knocking, and this week Lovie Smith was named their head coach.
Lovie is now 57 years old, and could conceivably coach for the next 10 years or so.
Will he stay in the college ranks, though? Or would a quick turnaround of the Illini program get him back in the NFL?
Or does Lovie even want to get back to the pros?
Let us know your thoughts, and discuss anything else you'd like in the comments section below.
This is your Tuesday morning Open Thread... Have fun!