- Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune sums up the case against Bears head coach Lovie Smith:
“How much more does Phil Emery need to see?
“On Sunday, the Bears general manager saw a miserable Bears offense, a problem that has dogged Smith for one fired offensive coordinator after another. Even in beating the Lions 26-24 to keep alive their playoffs hopes that the Vikings killed with an upset of Green Bay, the Bears’ offense was a whole lot of miserable with several slices of brutal.”
“The players should get some blame, as well, and maybe they couldn’t reach the playoffs under any coach, but they didn’t reach the playoffs under Smith.
“How could Emery look at this situation and think it will be all better under Smith when it’s only getting worse?
And he didn’t. Its been nine years. Smith couldn’t seem to identify or attract good offensive coordinators. And he can’t or won’t coach offensive talent.
I finally lost faith. The Bears were never going have a decent offense under Smith. And the NFL is an offensive – specifically a passing – league. I hate to see any man fired. But it really was time to move on.
- Mike Imrem at the Daily Herald on the reaction of the players after Lovie Smith told them that he’d been fired:
“Left unsaid was something that was said in a Soldier Field locker room in December of 1981.
“The Bears had just won their final game of that season but finished with a 6-10 record. A starting offensive lineman was asked whether he thought head coach Neill Armstrong should be fired.
“‘No,’ he said emphatically. ‘We might get somebody like Dick Vermeil in here.’
“The Eagles coach was a winner but difficult on his players. He was demanding and unafraid to call out players who didn’t meet his demands.
“In contrast, Armstrong was as, well, as nice a person as ever coached in the NFL.
“The offensive lineman in question’s worst fears were realized. The Bears hired Mike Ditka, who as a head coach made even Vermeil seem more like Armstrong.”
I suggested before the Lions game that the players might be a little too comfortable under Smith. Like Imrem, I’ve got a feeling this might be a good shake up in that respect.
- Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune on the lousy way the Bears handled the head coaching situation:
“…Smith really is being fired at the wrong time. He won 10 games and all six losses came to playoff teams, most of which the Bears ran into when they were hot.
“The time to fire Smith was a year ago when [former general manager Jerry] Angelo was pushed out the door. But team president Ted Phillips said all sorts of glowing stuff about Smith and said he based his decision on the consistency he brought to the job. In a lot of positive ways, he has been consistent. His offenses also have consistently struggled and then there is the whole not-making-the playoffs thing again. More than likely, Smith was paired with Emery because the Bears didn’t want to pay Smith for two seasons not to coach the club.
“The time to fire Smith was after the 2009 season when the Bears started 3-1 and then lost eight of their next 10 games before ultimately finishing 7-9. The offense was jumbled and Smith’s defense got run over at times. But the Bears did not want to fire Smith – who had two years remaining on his contract – and risk paying two coaches not to coach the club in 2011 when ownership knew there would be a lockout. So, Smith was allowed to can half of his offensive staff, including coordinator Ron Turner, and a messy replacement search began and ultimately ended with his friend Mike Martz. Smith then got the team to shell out maximum dollars in free agency for pass rusher Julius Peppers to fix his defense.
“Smith guided the Bears to the NFC Championship Game the following year and earned a contract extension.”
What I find most frustrating is that the problem goes back before even this. Jerry Angelo was saddled with Dick Jauron for a year after he was hired and forced to keep him on after that when Jauron mustered a decent record. The team made the same mistake twice, saddling a general manager with a coach not of his own choosing.
For what its worth, Emery predictably denies that the year was a problem:
“‘Absolutely not,’ he said. ‘No. 1, coach Smith is an excellent person, I’ve learned a lot from him, I’ve learned a great deal about our coaches. I like a lot of our coaches, I think we have a fine group, some of them may end up back here so that was very valuable.'”
- Like Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times, I thought Emery’s analysis of the offensive line was interesting:
“Asked about the offensive line, Emery said he used the NFL’s STATS, Inc. and Pro Football Focus to get an unbiased evaluation of the line.
“”I went to STATS Inc., went through all the numbers. Went to Pro Football Focus, did all the numbers,” Emery said. ”I’m familiar with STATS Inc. We’re one of their contracted teams. Spent quite a bit of time with their people, not only their programmers but went to their offices, watched how they grade tape, how they triple check all their facts.
“”So I trust all their data, that’s it’s unbiased, that it doesn’t have my hands in it, that it doesn’t have our coach’s or scout’s hands in it, or anybody else in the league. They are simply reporting fact. Some ways to look at it is in a very Money Ball way, crunching the numbers.”
“The numbers revealed that the Bears were 26th in the NFL in pass protection, ”which tells me we’ve got to get better,” he said. But he added that three teams ranked below the Bears were in the playoffs and the 49ers were 25th. ”So I can’t absolutely say it’s the offensive line that’s going to determine our success or not.””
He also said that he didn’t look at run blocking because its so subjective.
It’s a good idea to use statistics as a tool but, as Emery noted when he looked at the evaluation of the 49ers offensive line, they are limited. Its good that he seems to know that.
- I’m going to have to think a little more about his explanation for why the offensive line wasn’t improved last offseason (via Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times). I understand that the opportunities were limited and I totally agree on that score:
“My though process was, before we went into the draft, to analyze with our coaches and with our staff, we’ve got two tackles and we had determined that was our greatest need. We felt good about our guard, our interior play. We felt good about Roberto Garza going into the season and looking at the STATS Inc. stuff, the guy had a solid season. We felt good about Lance Louis. He had a solid season before he got hurt. We felt that for the left guard, we had a number of candidates. We had a bunch of guys that had a number of starts. We certainly had enough in reserve, between starters and backups, for the interior play. So for us, it was a tackle question. What’s the age of the two guys that we have? 24. Is there a young tackle in this draft that, at the end of this fall, is going to clearly be better than the two young 24-year-old tackles that we have? That’s the question I had to ask myself.”
The only critical comment I have here is that Emery kind of blew off the left guard position in his explanation. Saying that you had guys who had started before in the league and a lot of back ups to cover the position isn’t the same thing as saying that it couldn’t have been improved. Personally, I think it could have been. I’m not sure it should have been under the circumstances. Everything you do there means you can’t do something somewhere else. But I think it could have been improved had they decided to do that, something I’m not sure you could have reasonably expected at the other positions.
- Potash on Emery’s approach to the next hire:
“A month after being hired as the Packers’ general manager in 1991, Ron Wolf fired Lindy Infante with one coach in mind as his replacement: larger-than-life Bill Parcells, then in hiatus as an analyst for NBC.
“Wolf had casual discussions with Parcells about the Packers job. But after he interviewed 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren, Wolf knew he had his man.
“‘Very briefly into the interview, I knew there wasn’t any sense to go further,’’ Wolf said at the time. ‘‘I felt like I had known Mike all my life.’
“That was about as far as that coaching search went. Holmgren was hired on Jan. 11, 1992, and the rest is Packers history.
“‘That’s the synergy I’m looking for,’ Bears general manager Phil Emery said Tuesday. ‘I want that person to grab me. I want to see it. I want to hear it. I want to walk away from it and know that that’s our guy.’
“In need of a home run after firing the beloved and respected Lovie Smith following a 10-6 season, it would make sense that Emery’s next move would be to make Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher an offer he couldn’t refuse. Instead, it appears he’s more intent on using his football intuition to find the right guy.”
- Jensen asks ESPN analyst Jon Gruden if he would be interested in returning to the NFL:
“‘Ah, there’s a lot of good candidates out there,’ Gruden told me. ‘I’m just focused on the Outback Bowl.'”
That’s not a “No”…
- Cowboys special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis has been identified by Jay Glazer at FOX Sports as a Bears coaching candidate. That comes as this excerpt appeared in Pro Football Weekly‘s Whispers column:
” Cowboys special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis is receiving attention for soon-to-be vacant head-coaching positions. For years, he has been regarded as a future head coach, whether on the college or pro level, and this could be his first serious crack at getting interviews.”
- Mike Holmgren says he’d like to coach somewhere next year. He’s intriguing. I wonder if his offense would mesh with Cutler, though. Is he the kind of adaptable coach Emery is looking for? It’s worth thinking about.
- I’m pretty sure I’m far from the only person who agrees with this sentiment from Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune:
“There is no need for Phil Emery to be locked into hiring a head coach with an offensive background.
“But there is an overwhelming need for him to be locked into hiring someone who has foolproof answers on how to fix the offense.
“And that probably means the Bears should hire an offensive guy.”
“His first question for those candidates [without an offensive background] should be: Who is your offensive coordinator going to be?
“If the answer is a young offensive coordinator who could get a head coaching job if he has success, that candidate can’t be valued as highly as someone who would have a longer-lasting offensive solution.
“If a candidate without an offensive background were to guarantee he could bring along someone like Norv Turner or Chan Gailey as his offensive coordinator, he would be worth listening to. Turner and Gailey have had offensive success and are not likely to become head coaches again.”
- How’s this for an odd quote from quarterback Jay Cutler on the firing of Smith? Via Biggs:
“‘We have a lot of good pieces offensively personnel wise and hope we get a good coordinator and play caller to make it work,’ he said.”
For heaven’s sake, Jay, why don’t you tell us what you really think?
- Emery also took what I thought was a subtle swipe at Tice. From Biggs:
“‘I think the important thing is that we continue to build around him,’ Emery said. ‘When I look at our team in the past and the team that I watched on tape and the team that I watched this fall, we’ve got to get better at the midfield area of making plays. Whether that is involving Matt Forte more and again I am going to be frank: Matt was brought back and I was excited about his signing because a big part of that is him as a pass receiver. For whatever reason, whether it was protection or whether it was utilization or whether it was catching, we didn’t utilize Matt or he didn’t have the opportunity to be fully utilized.'”
- One thing from Emery’s press conference on Tuesday that I defintely liked hearing was what he has in mind in terms of helping Cutler. Via Biggs:
“‘It’s very important that that person either himself or staff wise has the right person to help Jay develop, but it’s also very important that they help everyone develop,’ Emery said.”
It’s critical that Cutler get a coach who can help him. One that he respects and will listen to. Personally, I think the best way to ensure that is to hire the offensive mind behind the team as the head coach and to make sure that coach has a sucessful background coaching quarterbacks. But however its done, its probably the most important part of the process.
- Biggs challenges the notion that you need to find a left tackle in the first round of the draft:
“Of the last 10 Super Bowl winners, only one had a starting left tackle that was a first-round pick.”
“Guess who started for the Steelers at left tackle against the Packers two years ago? Jonathan Scott. He started seven games for the Bears at right tackle and it would not be surprising if they consider bringing him back into the fold.”
- Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes a delusional Henry Melton after the Bears beat the 4-12 Lions by 2 only points after being handed four turnovers:
“‘I feel we’re definitely a Super Bowl-caliber team,’ he said. ‘And for us not to get in is going to be heart-breaking.'”
- From Biggs on whether Emery will look at a coach who will change the defensive scheme:
“Emery doesn’t have a preference for a 4-3 or a 3-4 defense but said the team’s personnel is geared for a 4-3 and that the new coach would have to do a great job of convincing him the team could make the transition to a 3-4 with the players currently in the mix.
“‘I think it’s really important to find the person that has the knowledge and feel to make things fit with the talent that they have,’ Emery said. ‘That’s the mark of excellence that I’m looking for. Somebody that has adapted to the role or has the flexibility and the skill set to make the players that we have fit toward making a run for the championship.'”
Technically this isn’t true. Emery said the Bears didn’t have the personnel to run a “true 3-4″ meaning a two gap scheme with three large linemen. The one gap schemes like the one Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips uses would presumably require less adjustment.
- Biggs on the possibilty that the Bears will hire a special teams coach for their next head coach:
“Part of the appeal of a special teams coach is he is the only coach other than the head coach that works with nearly the entire roster. Emery, a strength and conditioning coach in college, has a similar background as an assistant who works with all players. In that way, he shares a common background with [Bears special teams coordinator Dave] Toub, who was a strength coach for 15 seasons at Missouri and UTEP.”
- Pompei indicates that long snapper Patrick Mannelly might have a career with the Bears beyond his playing days.
- Biggs quotes Zack Bowman on why he’s been better with the Bears after spending the offseason as a Minnesota Viking:
“‘When I was in Minnesota and they did this drill called long stride, short stride … before, I used to just run and then shoot my gun and the guy would step to the side. But when I got up there we did a thing called long stride, short stride, which long stride you are running and running and then right when you get to the point of attack you go to short strides and then accelerate through. That has helped me out a lot.’
“Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub said he’s going to look into the drill Bowman describes during the offseason and consider implementing it and borrowing from Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer.
“‘He is having a great year. He’s been consistent,’ Toub said of Bowman. ‘He’s better than he was before. No question. They definitely taught him some things at Minnesota. It has definitely made a difference for him. There’s something to it.'”
- Some sexy merchandise memes brought to you by profootballmock.com:
- Tweet of the week from Biggs:
“Before #Bears left locker room I asked long snapper Pat Mannelly if he was nervous watching GB-Minn game. ‘My kid is not playing in it.'”
- No surprise that the Cardinals are already mishandling their hiring process. Someone, preumably from the organization, is saying the chances are 95% that Andy Reid will take the job. Perhaps it would be better to interview him first, don’t you think? From the Chicago Tribune.
- An interesting Audible from Pro Football Weekly with some truth and which peripherally mentions the Bears:
“Missing on two drafts two years in a row does not hurt San Diego (for) those two years. It hits 3-4 years down the road when those (draft picks) are supposed to be good starters and depth players. The draft-heavy teams like San Diego and Chicago that really don’t like dipping into free agency or the waiver wire — when they realize they don’t have six or eight positions that they can play with, it forces you to jump in (to free agency). San Diego got involved with free agency the last two years and they missed on (the players they signed). It put them behind the 8-ball, to where they are reacting instead of acting. The bad drafts caught up to them. That’s how you fall off.”
- You wouldn’t think a huge network like ESPN would be this insecure. Via Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com.
- Chris Mortenson at ESPN reports that there is some general unhappiness in Detroit over the reign of head coach Jim Schwartz:
“[L]eague sources say that even during the playoff season, the Fords were disturbed by a number of incidents that fell under Schwartz’s domain. Schwartz’s occasional gruff management personality also has come under scrutiny and will be addressed by ownership if Schwartz is back in 2013.”
Kevin Seifert, also at ESPN, comments:
“[I] question whether firing Schwartz would repair the ‘tattered team culture’ Mortensen identified in his report. To be fair to him, Schwartz is one-third of the Lions’ leadership team. Is he solely to blame for the Lions’ culture? Don’t general manager Martin Mayhew and team president Tom Lewand contribute to that as well? “
They do. But every team to some extent reflects the personality of its head coach and there can be little doubt that the Lions’ lack of discipline reflects that of Schwartz.
- Fom Howard Eskin of FOX 29 and WIP radio. Looks like the Eagles aren’t messing around as they go right for the high profile candidates to replace Andy Reid.
“Could have had sex with an ex NFL kicker last night.
“That would’ve been embarrassing.”
- Can get enough of those quarterbacks on Facebook. Via profootballmock.com
- From The Sports Pickle we have this in the worst Christmas gift category:
One Final Thought
I could not agree more with Potash’s assessment of Emery’s press conference:
“But the only bizarre aspect of Phil Emery’s press conference on the firing of Lovie Smith was how un-Bear-like it was. How un-Lovie-like it was. How rational it was. It was like a real press conference — with substantive, detailed answers to legitimate questions. Instead of being insulted by a question about the offensive line and making us feel stupid for asking about it, Emery provided a step-by-step analysis of the line’s performance and why he did not address it in last year’s draft — the only thing missing were charts and graphs. He gave us more information we didn’t know in one 10-minute answer than Lovie Smith did in nine years. I was tempted to ask Emery ‘What time is it?’ just so I could learn how to build a watch.”
Emery taught me a lot about the team yesterday in one 54 minute press conference and I deeply appreciate that. I also noticed that it started exactly on time for once. He was as straight forward and transparent as you could reasonably expect. It was a pleasure to watch.
Its been less than a year and I already like him better than I ever liked Smith in nine. Let’s hope that feeling lasts.