Lovie Smith: Doing More with Less. And Other Points of View

Bears

  • Mike Mulligan at the Chicago Tribune credits defensive backs coach Jon Hoke for disguising coverages more with the Bears.  I’m not sure that this was so much Hoke’s doing as it is a general recognition by Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli that they needed to change things up every once in a while.  The transformation started last year and it was a much needed improvement. Though the Bears are still relatively vanilla in that they still concentrate on doing their core formations well, keeping an offense from getting comfortable by introducing that little bit of doubt can be very effective. Perhaps more important, sometimes big plays come from the element of surprise.
  • Most of us assume that Mike Martz has adjusted his play calling based upon what he thinks the Bears offensive personnel can handle.  But John Mullin at csnchicago.com wrote this interesting column about how the Bears are game planning offensively based in large part upon what they think the Bears defense can do.
  • David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune and Kevin Cross at CSNChicago.com are both singing the praises of head coach Lovie Smith.  Judging by the fans I heard on the Mully and Hanley Show last week, I’d say the fans are on board for once.  Many of us recognize that Smith is a pretty good coach but the most vocal fans usually aren’t expressing that opinion.  The revelations that Smith played the respect card against the Eagles, for example, and that he demanded more from players like Henry Melton and Anthony Adams have revealed a little of the activity that most of us assume goes on less publicly most weeks to many fans.  It doesn’t hurt that his assistants (most notably Mike Martz, Mike Tice, Jon Hoke and Rod Marinelli) are getting recent praise for their coaching, as well.  It will all go away the next time they lose a game, of course, but for now, its nice to see Smith getting a little well deserved credit.
  • Think I’m giving Smith too much credit for doing more with less?  Check out this comment from Pro Football Weekly‘s Audibles section:
 “That the Bears are even winning surprises me. They have no O-line. Their receiving corps is average. They have a good back, but only one, and a quarterback that was paid a lot, but then not surrounded with anything. They have a couple of solid guys on the D-line, but it’s an unspectacular group overall. The linebackers are aging. The secondary is (bad). Can you argue with  anything I just said? I think they have done a poor job of putting a team together.”

“If you just look at the numbers, Lovie Smith should be mentioned with the best NFL coaches but you never hear his name nationally. Why? Jermaine Jones from Twitter

“It’s a good question. The only active coaches who have won 70 games faster than Smith are Andy Reid and Mike Shanahan. I agree that Smith doesn’t seem to be respected as much as he should be. Some of it might be that Smith doesn’t do a very good job of promoting himself. Some of it may be that he is perceived as a “system” coach, as opposed to an innovator or creative thinker. And some of it may be that hardly any coaches are very well respected anymore. Reid is under fire in Philadelphia. Shanahan is in trouble in Washington. Even Bill Belichick, who widely is regarded as the best coach in the NFL, has been criticized recently for his personnel moves. It seems as if every NFL coach is just one bad streak away from being unemployed. Smith not being respected much may be more of a reflection of where the league is, and our society, than the job Smith has done.”

First of all, Belichick is doing a good job with personnel.  He’s being criticized for letting go good of defensive backs but that’s what you do when you are converting your scheme away from something that’s man heavy to something thats more like wha the Bears run.  You cut the defensive backs and sink your money in elsewhere.  Assuming they make it, my guess is that they’ll be fine defensively by playoff time.

But back to the point.  What Pompei says is all true.  But what Smith really excels at is something no one ever gives any coach credit for even though its undoubtedly the mod important part of the job – he obviously handles people really well.  The Bears players have come out unprepared before but its very rare – maybe once a season.  The vast majority of the time they are ready mentally and emotionally to get the job done.  Even given the excellent leadership exhibited by Brian Urlacher and, up to this season, Olin Kreutz, accomplishing that can’t be easy.  As with all forms of leadership, it requires just the right touch for each individual.  Judging from the results, few people we have seen or will ever see coach the Bears again, do it better than Smith.

“Some people in the front office were pushing for Edwin Williams to have a starting job coming out of preseason and now the 24-year-old will replace Chris Williams at left guard.”

Since when do front office people push to decide who plays? Front office people identify and bring in talent and coaches take it from there.  Everyone has a defined role.  The Bears blur the lines and make a mess of it, probably because deep down inside, GM Jerry Angelo is a frustrated head coach and he can’t keep his nose out of it and Lovie Smith thinks he can do a better job of judging talent for two months than scouts can do all year.  The end result is poor drafting as compromises are forced on everyone involved.

  • Pompei thinks that Lance Louis‘ future is probably not at tackle:

“An offensive tackle has to block too many different kinds of pass rushers to be able to get by without good height and long arms. A short pass rusher is particularly compromised against speed rushers because it becomes difficult for smaller blockers to reach fast pass rushers who take a wide angle to the quarterback.”

Elsewhere

  • Andrew Brandt at The National Football Post clarifies the franchise tag rules under the new collective bargaining agreement. He points out that the franchise tag is no longer, as many of us assumed, the average of the salaries of the top five players at a position. Its the average salary of the top player each year over the last five years at any position. This has caused the franchise salary numbers to drop significantly in 2012.
  • For those who are thinking maybe the Bears should take a chance on Albert Haynesworth, we have this article from Greg Bedard at the Boston Globe where he claims that Haynesworth essentially gave up against the Giants last week before his release:

“But against the Giants, after he drew a holding call with 14:10 left in the second quarter, Haynesworth put together three of the worst plays you will see out of an NFL defensive tackle.

“With 14:01 left, Haynesworth was easily thrown to the ground by Giants guard Chris Snee with one arm.

“With 13:59 left, Snee easily pancaked Haynesworth when he stopped moving his feet — a cardinal sin for a defensive lineman.

“And then on third down, Haynesworth was again thrown to the ground after he stopped moving his feet, this time by left guard David Diehl, who other Patriots regularly beat in that game.”

“’On the ground three-straight times and didn’t seem at all to mind!’ one [NFL personnel man] said. ‘Just stopped moving his feet on each play.’”

“‘They have some young ballers on this team. They have a lot of talent.’

Harris quickly clarified.

“‘We have a lot of talent.”’

“The Raiders better get (a GM) in place quick or Hue Jackson is going to (mess) that roster up. I don’t like any move he has made yet. Aaron Curry is not a pass rusher, and he does not have the instincts to play inside. He is a “Sam” linebacker in a 4-3 defense only. Those are dime-a-dozen guys.  They come off the field in nickel and dime. It’s a death position. You can’t pay it. … No one was willing to give up anything near what (Jackson) gave for Carson Palmer. He is trading the future (and) trying to do everything he can to win now. It’s such a short-sighted approach — that’s why very few head coaches can handle personnel. They are too emotionally-vested. If I’m Amy Trask, I’m not waiting until after the season.”
  • Another Audible that gives us something to consider with the San Diego game coming up:
“I think Philip Rivers’ sternum is bothering him. He can’t throw the deep ball. He is feeling the rush. He is 31 years old. I always thought he was a Bernie Kosar-type. People forget — Kosar was done at 29. He played another eight or nine years longer, but if you look at when it went south for him, it was before he turned 30. Rivers is smart, tough and gives you everything he’s got. But he’s not a great athlete. His mechanics are not how you would teach your kids. He’s worked hard to get where he is. Factor the potential sternum (injury), shaky mechanics and not having any speed at receiver to get open — he’s shaking back there. I don’t know if he will ever get it back.”
“You can always have a discussion with a guy who watches tape. You can discuss what you see and why things are happening and maybe come together in areas where one person did not have knowledge. If one watches tape and the other does not, you are having an argument. That’s what happens in a lot of places when it comes to personnel.”

One Final Thought

A number of people noted that I failed to put up game comments for the Lions game.  It almost never happens but fate put me in Orlando for the weekend where I had a business meeting which was scheduled during the broadcast.  I’m told these are held on Sunday because its cheaper to fly in on Saturday evening.  I think its because no one wants to miss the Smurfs on Saturday morning.

Not that it mattered.  The game wasn’t on there because apparently there are enough old, retired farts from New York in Florida to make the Giants a more attractive option.  And by more attractive, I mean even in comparison to the Buccaneers, who were blacked out.

Fortunately this appeared to be the one to miss.  If you are ever going to spend your time sitting in a room in the dark trying to surreptitiously hit the button on your phone to re-load ESPN’s Gamecast every 30 seconds so you won’t miss the three words describing every play, you want it to be a blowout so you can relax and ignore whoever is talking in peace.

I’ll be in Chicago for the San Diego game and the next week, heaven willing, the Bears will be on in St. Louis where I’ll be visiting my family over Thanksgiving.  Most people would rather burn out their eyes by looking at Roseanne Barr naked than watch the Rams right now anyway.  If the Bears game isn’t on, I’ll watch it in a bar and post comments about how many dropped but still perfectly edible peanuts there are down here the Oakland game.

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