Bears fire Lovie Smith

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A day after winning their tenth game but failing to make the playoffs for the fifth time in six years, the Chicago Bears dismissed head coach Lovie Smith.

Smith leaves with an overall record of 81-63, the third most wins in franchise history behind George Halas and Mike Ditka. He took the Bears to the Super Bowl after the 2006 season, where they lost to Indianapolis. Smith won three NFC North titles and made an unexpected run to the 2010 NFC Championship game, losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.  With his expertise on defense, the Bears ranked near the top of the NFL annually in takeways, and perenially sent players on that side of the ball to the Pro Bowl.

However, Smith was never able to oversee a turnaround on offense. He went through four offensive coordinators, and this year’s squad stumbled badly down the stretch after starting the season at 7-1, chiefly due to offensive woes.  A decent but placid man on the exterior, many Bears fans viewed his stoic demeanor as unrepresentative of their own emotions. It will be interesting to see whether he is offered another head coaching job elsewhere, or may need to take a defensive coordinator’s role as a stepping stone back to the head job. General Manager Phil Emery praised Smith as recent as yesterday on WBBM’s Bears pre-game show as an “outstanding coach and team-first person.” Now the second-year GM faces a crucial hire in his effort to get the Bears back regularly to the postseason and beyond.

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Among the key questions for a new head coach will be wheth

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er the Bears future includes quarterback Jay Cutler, who will enter next season in the last year of his contract, but has failed to deliver the consistency and results in his four years with the team.

LB Brian Urlacher’s status is also up in the air. He missed his fourth straight game Sunday with a hamstring injury, and at age 34, may have played his last season in a Bears uniform.

Emery is expected to undertake an exhaustive search, and many former coaches and current assistants could well be on his interview list. The Bears will have company, as at least four other teams have fired their head coaches and are in the market.

 

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