The last Bears head coach to win a playoff game and take the team to the Super Bowl, Lovie Smith, has the keys to the car of another NFL franchise again.
On Tuesday, the Houston Texans made the hire (and promotion from defensive coordinator) of Smith as their head coach official. We here at Windy City Gridiron thought it more than fair to celebrate considering the success the Bears enjoyed under Smith and, well, that the Bears have mostly been irrelevant since they ousted the 63-year-old at the close of the 2012 season.
Please note and appreciate The Beard’s happiness.
We’ll let Coach Lovie take it from here pic.twitter.com/bkMOoWdZqy— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) February 8, 2022
Smith is most famous for being the last consistent Bears head coach to make the NFL’s charter franchise a quality fixture. Under Smith’s leadership, Chicago won the NFC Championship in 2006, appeared in the 2011 NFC Championship Game, and had four double-digit win campaigns (11 in 2005, 13 in 2006, 11 in 2010, and 10 in 2012). In Smith’s nine years at the helm, the Bears had an overall record of 81-63.
Smith’s version of the trademark Cover-2 defense predicated on turnovers and discipline — spearheaded by legendary names like Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, and Charles Tillman — was the mainstay on the Chicago lakefront. That philosophy, by far, was most responsible for the Bears’ success in the early 2000s. And considering much of the circumstances and distinctions in talent and era, it would also be fair to argue he is the Bears’ best head coach in the last 50+ years. But yes, the great Buddy Ryan has a fair case in that coaching debate. (Founder and former owner George Halas stopped coaching the team after the 1967 campaign.)
The Texans’ head job is the first head coaching gig for Smith since tabbed to lead the Buccaneers. After Tampa Bay moved on from him after but two seasons from 2014 to 2015, Smith then coached college football, for Illinois, for five seasons from 2016 to 2020. Houston will be hoping more for the Bears’ version of Smith rather than any recent less successful iterations in his coaching career.
Finally, we would be remiss if we did not at least note the skepticism as to whether Houston did really want to hire Smith—instead of Josh McCown—given the recent allegations of systemic racism in league hiring practices by former NFL head coach, Brian Flores. Many leaders in Black media believe the Texans only ended up hiring Smith (again, instead of McCown) amidst Flores’ lawsuit to avoid further backlash. Language of “for 2022” used by direct NFL information broker, Ian Rapoport, to describe Smith’s hire did not help assuage concerns that Smith wouldn’t soon be treated like former Texans head coach David Culley. Culley, another Black man, did an admirable job coaching perhaps the league’s worst roster to a four-win campaign last season before being curtly fired earlier this off-season.
Smith has his work cut out for him either way. The Texans still sit in a poor position and likely need a full-scale rebuild before they can contend in a loaded AFC. We will undoubtedly be rooting for the best Bears' non-Halas coach—and his glorious beard—to transcend all expectations and thrive in Texas.
That is, until the Texans visit Soldier Field and the Bears next season. All bets will be off for that specific one-time occasion.