Mike Ditka thinks firing Lovie Smith after a 10-win season is stupid.
I won't go that far, but I do think it's a big risk.
I've been on the fence about the firing of Smith since it happened Monday.
While there were murmurings that it was possible, I really didn't think it likely. While I understand the reasoning behind it—missing the playoffs five out of six seasons and a mediocre-at-best offense for nine years—the more I think about it, the more I think it was a risky move.
And the wrong one.
I totally see how Ditka can feel the way he does, and he's probably right—if the Packers had beaten the Vikings, allowing the Bears to make it into the postseason, I can't imagine Smith would have been fired.
The poor offensive output, losing six out of the last eight games, the offensive line—all would have probably been forgotten. Whether that would have been the right move can be debated but it's the likely outcome.
So firing Smith, when his team did what it needed to in the final week and was ousted from the playoffs because something outside of their control happened, feels knee-jerk.
It's one of the reasons I feel this was a risky move.
Yes, Smith hasn't handled the offensive side of the ball well (which might be an understatement). Yes, the offensive coordinators who have failed to improve the offense were largely Lovie Smith choices.
That said, there were things GM Phil Emery could have done that would have allowed Smith—beloved by his players and architect of one of the best defenses in the league—to remain and perhaps be successful beyond what has come before.
The key would have been for Emery to find an offensive coordinator for Smith. Perhaps that would have meant Mike Tice remains as offensive coordinator. He is, after all, just a year into a new tenure and offense.
I'm not a fan, but I'm willing to admit Tice could improve in Year 2.
Whether Tice or someone else, the fact remains that it's a general manager's job to fill the offensive coordinator position, especially when the head coach hasn't always made the best choices for it.
Find someone who Smith could work with, but who is a better fit for the Bears and the talent they have and keep Smith.
Why keep Smith?
I'd say you keep Smith because of the defense he has put together. You keep him because his guys appear to be willing to run through a wall for him. You keep him because the mercurial Jay Cutler is comfortable with him.
What is the risk in firing him?
That players will have a hard time warming up to the new guy when they are so invested in Smith. That a new coach will want his guys on the coaching staff, which could fiddle with chemistry not just on the offensive side, but the defensive side.
The risk is that you made a move after a 10-win season that didn't need to be made because you had other options.
Emery made a big move, one which a chunk of the fan base has wanted—some for a long while. I get it. You're tired of seeing the offense languish and fantastic defensive efforts wasted.
However the grass isn't always greener on the other side and change doesn't always result in an upgrade.
A lot of the success (and our comfort level with it) will come from whom they bring in and what they do on both sides of the ball once they hit Halas Hall.
But while I think "stupid" was overstating things, I also believe Ditka has a right to be concerned.
Firing Lovie Smith may prove to be a step forward but the risk is that the team ends up taking a step back.
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