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Posts Tagged ‘Ron Rivera’

Lovie Smith Puts His Chicago Bears Legacy Directly In The Crosshairs

Posted by sportsmaven on January 29, 2009

Change had to come. You knew it, the guy next to you knew it too.  If you’ve watched the Chicago Bears all season, especially on the defensive side of the ball, there was an air of change swirling, rustling the leaves, blowing wildly in the wind.  The offense was an early and pleasant surprise that slowly morphed into what we all thought it would be, but the cornerstone unit of this franchise, the defense, was like the two year recession of the American economy.  Something had to change.

Bears head coach Lovie Smith takes over Chicago Bears defense

Bears head coach Lovie Smith takes over Chicago Bears defense

The media’s favorite fall guy was Bears defensive coordinator Bob Babich, but he was just a front man.  The real finger pointing started the day Bears head coach Lovie Smith announced the departure of then defensive coordinator Ron Rivera and naming linebackers coach Babich his replacement.  Smith followed that up with a plea for people to trust him when it comes to the welfare of his Chicago Bears football team.  When the argument resorts to pulling a “Trust Me” card, that’s was a sure sign to run away, don’t buy it, red-flag warning.

Something had to change after two years of sub-par performance of a unit paid like the elite, but performed very unordinary and uninspired.   Just like the legacy of President Barack Obama, who will forever live on his phrases of more accountability, “Yes, we can” and personal responsibility, Lovie Smith’s legacy will live on his most memorable words too, “Trust Me”.

His legacy will also be square in the crosshairs of his decisions concerning the coaching staff, bringing in former Lions head coach Rod Marinelli to coach the defensive line (and take the title of Asst. Head Coach), moving Babich back to linebackers coach (retaining the defensive coordinator title in name only), where he actually experienced great success with LB’s Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher garnering regular Pro Bowl appearances under his tutelage, and hiring veteran defensive backs coach and ex-Chicago Bear defensive back Jon Hoke to coach the secondary for the Bears.  The biggest move, however, is the announcement that Smith, himself, will be calling the defensive plays next season.

Smith was arguably one of the best defensive coodinators in the NFL, leading a defense that took the St. Louis Rams to Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002.  Smith’s defense was known for being an aggressive defense, forcing 38 turnovers and 4 defensive TD’s.  Smith taking over primary play calling duties from Bob Babich is seen as a strong positive move for restoring the bite in the Bears defense.  One way or another, it definitely will be the move that cements his Chicago Bears legacy, for good or bad.

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Chicago Bears 9-7 Season Clouds Failures In Judgement

Posted by sportsmaven on December 29, 2008

The Chicago Bears are not the Detroit Lions, but at the completion of today’s play, they have gotten as far as the Lions did this season, which to say, is out of the playoffs.  That comparison is certainly extreme, as the Bears do not have the same amount of holes that the Lions have, but a 9-7 finish that surprised many have clouded severe failures of judgement made by the football leadership of this team.

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Perhaps the most glaring failures are with a Chicago Bears defense that opened the season very motivated in a win over the Indianapolis Colts, but sunk to maddening lows in crushing defeats by the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings amongst others.  Bears head coach Lovie Smith was asked about replacing defensive coordinator Ron Rivera shorly after the Bears loss to the Colts in Super Bowl XLI.  This is where Love broke out his now infamous “Trust Me” speech.

“You should trust me as a head football coach to put us in the best position to win football games,” Smith said. “It’s as simple as that.”

And that was Lovie’s reasoning to why he chose to replace Ron Rivera with BFF Bob Babich.  Since Rivera was replaced, the Bears defense has plunged to embarassingly low depths in both prestige and performance.  In 2006, teams feared and respected the Bears defense.  Ask the Arizona Cardinals, despite then-Coach Dennis Green’s post-game rant.  Now, teams just run over the Bears defense.  Case in point:

  • The Houston Texans racked up 455 yards of total offense and 31 points in a Week 17 victory.
  • The Packers ran the Bears for 427 yards and 37 points in Week 11 pasting of the Bears.
  • The Vikings racked up 439 yards and 41 points in a Week 7 loss to the Bears.
  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers ran up 454 yards and 27 points  in a Week 2 Bears debacle.

These are numbers that nearly all Chicago Bears fans find unacceptable.  It should be unacceptable to Lovie Smith as well, but somehow, it isn’t, which leads back to the Trust Me speech and the fact that I can no longer trust Lovie Smith to make correct decisions when he has yet to acknowledge that the two biggest staff decisions of his coaching tenure were complete and utter failures (remember the Terry Shea mess?)

Secondly, the Bears personnel decisions and evaluations are skeptical at best and leave even casual fans wondering if the Bears are able to effectively evaluate talent.  Consider the players the Bears kept:

  • WR/KR Devin Hester signed a $40M contract extension and was made a WR, neutering his return skills (0 TD’s)
  • LB Brian Urlacher was given a lucrative contract extension for 88 tackles, no sacks, and no Pro Bowl selection
  • DT Tommie Harris signed a large contract extension only to play about a half season due to injury/ineffectiveness
  • WR Earl Bennett was drafted to compete for a starting position; he ends up catching 0 passes for the season.

and the players the Bears decided to let go:

The Bears have also missed on numerous players in the draft as well, as noted in past posts.  The level of talent on the Bears has receded dramatically since the 2006 Super Bowl season, which means that the Bears braintrust has not made moves in personnel and coaching to build off their success.  Now Bob Babich is on the hot seat.

The Bears clearly need to admit that they made severe errors in judgement in replacing Ron Rivera with Bob Babich.  They need to admit that they made errors in personnel and they need to correct these errors in the offseason.  A 9-7 record is something to build from, but if the failures of judgement are not corrected, this may be the best it will be under Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith.

Extras:

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Top 5 Issues for Chicago Bears Success This Season

Posted by sportsmaven on August 6, 2007

The Chicago Bears have what seems to be a very interesting problem:  too much depth.  Now, I know what you’re thinking, how can a team have too much depth?  But that’s what the Bears have, so much so that they have traded last year’s starting SS Chris Harris to the Carolina Panthers and are looking to move another, reserve CB and special teams standout Dante Wesley.  I will be the first to admit that I was very hard on Bears GM Jerry Angelo in the early days, but the last 3 years, he has proven that he has not only grown into the job, but has been one of the most shrewdest GM’s in the game in that period.

Cedric Benson at Bears training camp

(Tribune photo by Scott Strazzante)

Angelo has wisely locked up core young talent early at a lesser price then they would have commanded in the open market, has drafted very wisely (has any GM drafted better from rounds 4-7?  If so, I want to know who that person is) and has built a roster that is arguably the strongest in the NFC from top to bottom.

The Bears are trying to defy recent history by returning to the Super Bowl a year after losing the Big Game, only a return is not the goal.  Winning the Super Bowl is the goal and it seems as though Bears head coach Lovie Smith has every man clearly focused on that goal once again.  For the Bears, 5 things have to happen in order to have a chance at returning to the Big Game:

1.  Avoid injuries at all cost — having the best bench depth in the NFC (and maybe in the league, west of New England) is definitely an asset, but you need your best players playing in top form all season.  If LB Brian Urlacher, QB Rex Grossman, RB Cedric Benson, WR Bernard Berrian, KR/PR/WR Devin Hester, DT Tommie Harris, or any one of the starting OL goes down, the next line of talent is thin at these positions.

2.  Offense has to make another leap in performance — The surprise of last season’s team was definitely the performance of the offense.  Nobody on the planet thought the Bears would be #2 in the NFL in scoring nor that Rex Grossman would throw 20 TD passes and over 3000 yards passing.  For the Bears to jump to the next level, Grossman must improve his completion rate.  Last season, he was at 54.6%.  This season, he has to eclipse 60% and limit his interceptions from 20 to single digits.  RB Cedric Benson is on the spot now, and must rush for at least 1,200 yards and 10 TD’s.  WR Mark Bradley must avoid the injury bug and establish himself as the #2 receiver, and WR Bernard Berrian must prove that last year wasn’t a fluke.

3.  KR/PR/WR Devin Hester must emerge as a multiple options threat — this is probably the most tenuous of all the options.  I can’t recall a return man who has excelled on the offensive side of the ball in recent history.  The Kansas City Chiefs tried KR Dante Hall at WR and that didn’t work.  Devin Hester could be one of the best open field players in NFL history, but not after one record setting season as a KR/PR.  Hester must prove that he is a threat regardless of position.  He didn’t stand out as a DB.  The offensive side of the ball is where he belongs, but yet again, he is very raw and unproven there….

4.  Defense can’t have another late season drop off — It was clear that the defense dropped off significantly in the second half of last season.  It was still a very good defense, but a dominant defense wins Super Bowl XLI and that wasn’t the case for the Bears.  The Indianapolis Colts rushed for 191 yards in the Super Bowl against a defense missing DL Tommie Harris and SS Mike Brown.  That defense stepped up against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game, but the time for the defense to shine is in December and January.  New defensive coordinator Bob Babich must bring more energy to the table then his predecessor, Ron Rivera, otherwise the change may be for naught.

5. Young players must perform well — Of any reason listed above, the performance of young players have been one of the biggest contributors to the recent success the Bears have experienced.  KR/PR Devin Hester, SS Danieal Manning, WR Mark Bradley, when healthy, DE Mark Anderson, departed SS Chris Harris, K Robbie Gould are all young players that really turned their games on in their rookie or second years, pushing for playing time and putting high priced veterans on the bubble.  The pressure will be on this year’s draft class, particularly TE Greg Olsen, RB Garrett Wolfe, and CB Trumaine McBride to fill key roles.  If these rookies shine, expect the Bears to be even more potent.

Opening day in San Diego is right around the corner.  The time to play the Chargers might be early in the season, but this is a tough opener.  The non-division schedule is tough, with games against the San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, and the Seattle Seahawks, but to be the best, you have to go through the best.  The Bears will definitely have that to deal with this championship season….

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What Is Going On At Halas Hall?

Posted by sportsmaven on February 21, 2007

I’m not sure what is going on at Halas Hall, but leave it to the Chicago Bears to mess up a good thing. Word came today from Frank Bauer, agent for Lovie Smith, that the Bears are at an impasse with their head coach on an extension of his current contract. This team, fresh off a Super Bowl, knows how to take momentum and run it completely into the ground. Ironically, this has the stink of Michael McCaskey all over it. What this family has to realize is that they have a Super Bowl contending team next season and that continutity is paramount to nurturing an environment of success necessary to win. It’s one thing to lose staff and players because your team won the Super Bowl. That’s the trappings of success. It’s another thing when your team actually LOSES the Super Bowl and you are losing players/coaches because of your ineptness in recognizing and locking up your talent. I do give the Bears credit for signing Dave Toub, arguably the best special teams coach currently in the business.

Halas Hall

It’s another when you lose coaches Harold Goodwin, Don Johnson, let your popular defensive coordinator, Ron Rivera walk after 99% of the open NFL jobs are already filled, and allowing Wade Wilson to interview for a lateral position with the Dallas Cowboys. In addition, key staff members Bobby DePaul and Greg Gabriel’s contracts are up shortly after the NFL draft. So what do we call this? An unequivocal mess. The Bears need to understand that they are in the NFL and that they need to capitalize on their opportunities of not just making it to the Super Bowl but actually winning the Super Bowl. The way they have approached the off season is certainly not the way winning organizations operate. The Bears have more Arizona Cardinals in them than New England Patriots, and this does not bode well for next season….stay tuned for more of this ongoing soap opera in Lake Forest.

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