Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Quite a Midterm

I've been thinking about Lovie Smith a little bit lately. Not a whole lot, honestly, because the Bears are less on my mind at this point in their season than they've been probably at any point in the past three or four years. They've kind of exhausted me and I'm not really willing to put a whole lot of emotional energy into them until I think their might be some kind of decent reward there for me.

I have grown to like Lovie Smith quite a lot over the past couple of years, and I've developed a certain amount of faith in him. This faith has led me to feel that simply the fact of Lovie Smith being there coach means there's at least a reasonable chance the Bears could turn things around this season. But it occurred to me while I was showering today that the situation Smith faces with his team right now is significantly different than any situation he's been in as a coach in pro football. He's always been coaching teams on the ascension. He became the defensive coordinator and St. Louis, installed his system, watched it flourish, and then got a head coaching job in Chicago where he proceeded to install his system, and watch it flower into success. Even in his worst year as head coach, his rookie year, you could see the system gradually take hold over the season as the defense got better. In other words, up until this year, Smith's teams have always been on the right track.

They certainly are not this year, and now Smith faces his first real test: a test that not a lot of NFL coaches survive these days. What to do when your team suddenly derails? Smith has always seemed like a little more of a long-term than a short-term guy, and I don't really have a problem with that. It seems like a better way to be, generally. But the Bears are only one year removed from a tremendous season, with not a whole lot of significant personnel changes. They're a team that obviously has the potential to be much better than what they are. In order for that to happen, though, it's become equally obvious that Smith needs to make some short-term decisions about the team. Can he do it? I don't know. Like I said, I have a lot of faith in the guy, but when I think about it there's not a whole lot that he's ever done to indicate he's really capable of making the kind of immediately beneficial changes that need to happen. I'm pretty confident that by the end of the season, the team will have started to show a little progress and there will something to look forward to moving into next season, but even that will be a disappointment compared to what everyone knows this team should be doing this season.

So how 'bout it, Lovie? You gonna throw down?

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