Friday, January 12, 2007

In The Line Of Fire: Lovie Smith

There is a team going to the next round after this weekend on the strength of a very good running game, a tight end having a breakout year, and consistently strong play-calling. They will do so despite an erratic quarterback and a defense struggling through injuries. A loss in this game might cost the head coach his job.

Since Mike Holmgren isn't about to lose his job, the team in question is obviously the Chicago Bears. Despite some similarities between the two franchises, the Bears are the clear favorite. Granted, the Seattle Seahawks didn't have a healthy Shaun Alexander the last time they played earlier this season, but do they now? Alexander hasn't looked like the MVP of last year at all this year, coming back from foot problems. Worse still for the Seahawks, the recent signings to the defensive backfield give new meaning to the term journeymen. As in trade worker-style. These guys were one step above the Carlos Mencia bit about the day workers in front of California Home Depots. Good luck in the NFL playoffs your first day at work, fellas.

What does this mean for your beloved hometown team? Don't lose to very recently retired house painters, for one. Brian Urlacher's recent sarcastic comments about the media coverage notwithstanding, it would be foolish to consider the Bears the best 13-3 team ever. Sure, worst is probably an exaggeration, if only because of the difficulty in quantification of said description. Even the most cursory glance of some key statistics paints a...colorful picture.

For instance, the string of three hundred yard plus games the defense has given up. With some key injuries, most notably Tommie Harris up front, and Mike Brown in the DB corp., the Bears have slowly drifted toward NFL defensive mediocrity. Added to that is the midseason Tank Johnson-debacle for distraction-sake.

Another interesting number is 0.0. While this might be good if pulled over for potential D.U.I., it is less good when it is the rating for a team's starting quarterback. At least Rex Grossman was able to explain it afterward as a lack of focus and preparation on his part. An argument might be made that great NFL QB's don't let such situations occur. Even good quarterbacks might have a rating in the fifties every once in great while. Grossman's play is so inconsistent, he might as well tie a string to his waist and get a tattoo on his chest reading Duncan Imperial. Some will say he doesn't have two bad weeks in a row. Some had better hope the bye week wasn't the "up" week.

This all matters because the Bears haven't won a home playoff game in a while. (Cheer up, the Seahawks haven't won a road playoff game in quite a bit either.) It really matters to Lovie Smith because it isn't good to lose in the first playoff game two years in a row. When the team started out hot, fans and many media were decrying the fact that Smith's contract was not being extended, post haste. While it is unlikely that Jerry Angelo had a vision of what was to come, for whatever reason, he did not jump on that bandwagon. Was he/is he waiting to see what happens this post-season? Angelo recently mentioned he was working on an extension for Smith, but unless it is unexpectedly finished (extension signed) before this weekend, nothing is guaranteed for next year. Thus it appears to be a vote of confidence for his head coach, without an actual painting into a corner scenario. As an added bonus of drama, there are the low level rumblings of Smith going home to Texas to coach the Dallas Cowboys. With Jerry Jones emphatically stating that Terrell Owens will be back next year it is not emphatic that Bill Parcells will be back to coach. Furthermore, both defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, and offensive coordinator Ron Turner are getting mentions for replacing the many head coaching positions already available. What better time to leave than when all your best assistants have gotten promotions outside your current organization?

Will Coach Smith pull a flailing Grossman before all hope is gone if need be? Will the defense stop somebody? Can Smith survive another earlier departure from the playoffs? Will it depend on the How or the Why of such a loss? Would it be another Grossman-fueled turnover fest? Alexander running for a hundred and sixty? The defensive line failing to get pressure on Matt Hasselbeck, who without said pressure has the ability to pick even very good defenses apart? If, indeed, Grossman falters, and the change to Brian Griese is not made, might that one particular decision spell the end of the Lovie Smith era in Chicago? Should it? If Griese does come in, but does poorly will that excuse Smith with an "at least he tried" attitude? If the Bears lose to an undermanned, somewhat undertalented, already once beaten Seahawks team in any fashion, is there any excuse Bears fans, or probably more importantly, Bears management will accept? Again, should there be?

There are only so many shots at the big game in the modern NFL. If a team can't take advantage of the chances they have when they have them, there are seldom many places that are looked at for blame beside the head coach position. Smith certainly seems like a good head coach. It will be interesting to see if the Bears should fail to advance; can he overcome the possible demand for his job? Bears fans hope they don't find out.

That's all for now.
Until next time, be good.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stopped reading when you called him "Bryan Urlacher"...

7:00 PM, January 13, 2007  
Blogger jamesmnordbergjr said...

Sorry, SR, I edited it too late.

7:13 PM, January 13, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

no worries. last week i called him brian boitano.

good read, sr.

1:15 AM, January 14, 2007  
Blogger D.T. Kelly said...

If the Bears play next week like they did this week, the Saints will be marching to the Super Bowl.

Grossman wasn't horrible, but he wasn't much more than average.

The defense left holes wide enough for aircraft carriers to run through, provided ACC had legs....

Although they (defense) did pull it together and stuff Alexander on more than one key play.

Hey Bears, next week win it handily, please? My nails can't take another OT game.

4:56 PM, January 14, 2007  
Blogger Soxually Repressed said...

Not your fault, Jimmy. My fault for inexplicably spelling the name the UNusual way. Anonymous DID miss out on the 'house painter', 'colorful picture' reference, which was award-winning wit to be sure.

Thank you, Panger. Your confession makes me wonder where my Boitano posters mysteriously went...

D.T.:Hope your nails grow quick.

Tease the Blog: There is a better than average chance that next week's LoF will mention the Bears, specifically the linemen. So set your Blogvos now.

P.S. Blogvos are my idea, so everybody keep your grubby little mindmitts off.

P.P.S. Really, though, y'all come on back now, y'hear?

1:09 AM, January 15, 2007  

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