The Bears may have felt they were in a hospital waiting room with doctors telling them their playoff hopes had died when Minnesota beat Green Bay. They had barely beaten Detroit 26-24 and needed a Packer win…it didn’t happen, and now the season is over. The post season drought continues for Lovie Smith’s team. This year actually feels worst then last. How can a team begin the season 7-1, finish 10-6 and not make the playoffs? With the present NFL playoff system, fifty-three teams began a season at 7-1 and only the 1996 Washington Redskins and now the Bears failed to make the playoffs.
Last year the injuries to Jay Cutler and Matt Forte gave more credence to that season’s outcome. Where is the blame now and who will suffer the consequences? Last season it was General Manager Jerry Angelo given his walking papers. He was the person in charge of the roster and there were significant gaps with the depth of that team.
Angelo’s replacement Phil Emery, after his first year at the helm, has some major decisions to make for a team that has to figure what direction to take now.
If the fans had a vote you know what they would say—fire head coach Lovie Smith. After nine seasons as the Bears head coach, his team has been to the playoffs three times, once in the last six years (2010).
NFL coach’s jobs are measured by wins and losses and playoff berths. Although this year’s record is respectable, more was expected of the Bears. The inability to beat Green Bay in two meetings, not winning the division and not playing beyond the regular season may cost Smith his job. Emery was told he had to keep Smith when he came on board as General Manager. With a year left on the coach’s contract will the team hierarchy give Emery the green light to make a change?
One fact is certain-no one knows what Phil Emery is thinking. He had been a man that does not leak any information, does not cozy up to the media and now faces a major decision in his young tenure at the helm.
If Emery decides to make a change, will it be a sweeping change? Some may argue that defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and special teams coach Dave Toub deserve to be retained. Would a new head coach want to deal with any hold-overs (like Emery did keeping Smith)?
If there is no change at head coach and Smith stays to finish the final year of his contract, it would be likely that offensive coordinator Mike Tice could be the odd guy out.
The Bears offense had issues in so many ways. The final game was a microcosm of the season even with the win.
Prior to the game it seemed that an easy victory was at hand over a Detroit team that only had four wins this year. But Lovie Smith’s team didn’t make it easy on themselves against the Lions. The Bears defense gave the offense the ball four times in great field position. Unfortunately, they only scored 16 points after settling for three Olindo Mare field goals and a Matt Forte one yard touchdown. Luckily for the Bears, they were playing a team that that knew their season was over on Sunday. The Lions fought and showed enough life closing in on a 17 point deficit.
Both teams had similar game plans-shut down their opponents “big time” player.
Bears receiver Brandon Marshall had limited catches (5 receptions 42 yards), but he did have an impact with a huge block that allowed Earl Bennett to scamper down the sidelines for a 60-yard touchdown. Despite a sore ankle, Matt Forte had 103 rushing yards. Jay Cutler was 18 of 31 for 257 yards, 1 touchdown and no interceptions.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford had to rely on other weapons since Bears All-Pro Charles Tillman did a good job on record-setting receiver Calvin Johnson. Last week “Mega-tron” Johnson set the mark for receiving yards in a season, but he was kept from crossing the 2,000-yard barrier.
Once again it was the Bears defense that was the strength of the game. Lovie Smith does deserve credit for the philosophy he has instilled with that part of the Bears, but the offense is still a struggle, and when you are a head coach it is your responsibility for all three phases of the team, defense, offense and special teams. Of course, Lovie Smith likes to talk about the Bears fourth phase—the Bear fans. I think he better not bring that up—he lost them.