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Lovie Smith Makes the Most Sense of Any Candidate as Buffalo Bills Head Coach

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 23:  Head coach Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears watches from the sidelines during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 23, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Erik FrenzSenior Writer IJanuary 2, 2013

Russ Brandon took the stage at One Bills Drive on Tuesday afternoon, after having been named President and CEO, and said, "it's time to start a new legacy."

That new legacy can get started by going after a hot head coaching candidate, for once.

In fact, that legacy is already getting started off on a positive note, as it seems coaches are actually interested in the job—a vast difference from when willing candidates were few and far between the last time the Bills were looking for a new head coach.

As it turns out, former Bears head coach Lovie Smith is interested in the gig, according to Tim Graham of The Buffalo News:

Just spoke to source close to Lovie Smith who says "Lovie feels very good about" Bills being a good fit. Don't know if Bills feel same.

— Tim Graham (@ByTimGraham) January 1, 2013

Smith is considered one of the two or three best head-coaching candidates available on the market (a list that includes former Eagles head coach Andy Reid and current Oregon Ducks head coach Chip Kelly), and while Kelly wouldn't be a bad choice, Smith is the best choice.

The fact that he has already expressed interest means the Bills would have to royally screw it up to not land him by any means other than simply not wanting him as their coach—and they'd have to be crazy not to want him.

His accomplishments alone have built enough of a resumé to make him a prime candidate: Smith went 81-63 in nine years with the Bears, and had five winning seasons. In three playoff appearances, his team went to two NFC Championship Games and went to Super Bowl XLI.

He's a great fit for the Bills job.

Fans who took umbrage with the team's misuse of C.J. Spiller will be happy to know that the Bears have ranked in the top 10 in rushing yards in three of Lovie's seasons, and have ranked in the top 10 in rush attempts in four of his seasons.

He saw running backs Thomas Jones, Cedric Benson and Matt Forte have the best years of their career, and all earned nice paydays for their play under his watch.

To be fair, his offenses have not been among the league's best—in fact, not once have the Bears finished better than 15th on offense under Smith—but a good offensive coordinator would help prevent that from becoming a problem (Mike Martz and Mike Tice don't exactly fit the bill there).

Where Smith's impact will be felt most is on defense. The Bills have already used a lot of resources on the defensive side of the ball, with two first-round picks over the past two years in cornerback Stephon Gilmore and defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, and big-name free agent acquisitions in linebacker Nick Barnett, defensive ends Mark Anderson and Mario Williams.

They are built for a 4-3 defense, and they have a lot of untapped potential on defense. Smith's familiarity with the 4-3 would mean a seamless transition, and it could help to bring out the best in Buffalo's defense.

Yet right now, the Bills seem more interested in looking at former Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt and his staff of assistants (including defensive coordinator Ray Horton and offensive line coach Russ Grimm).

The Bills have built a reputation of buying low on assistants and coordinators turned first-time head coaches, and although Russ Brandon indicated the Bills would go all-in for the best head coach available, we were reminded that we've heard this song before:

Brandon said it was the media that said the bills would spend big on a coach 3 years ago. John Wawrow of ap reminded him that Ralph told him

— Jerry Sullivan (@TBNSully) January 1, 2013

Bottom line: There's no good reason to go with anyone but Smith.

The Cardinals went 45-51 under Whisenhunt, and were .500 headed into 2012. They won the division twice with Kurt Warner at quarterback, but have fallen short without him. Whisenhunt, Horton and/or Grimm may be perfectly qualified for the job, but take a look at the state of the Cardinals organization right now and ask yourself: Is that the culture you want to bring to your team? 

Now, look at the Bears. They've had their shortcomings, but Smith's Bears were always a contender and won the division three times.

Also consider the difference in their competition: Whisenhunt had difficulty winning the mediocre NFC West, while Smith has cut his teeth in the tough-as-nails NFC North.

Smith has experience winning a division that has a Super Bowl-winning quarterback in it; the Packers had Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers under center for Smith's entire tenure with Chicago.

Smith's experience against top competition would come in handy with Tom Brady and the Patriots sitting pretty on their perch atop the AFC East.

The Bills could both find their head coach for the next 10 years and win back some of their disenchanted fans with a big move like this. Ultimately, though, any move will generate buzz in Buffalo. What's important is which move will generate wins in the near future and going forward.

If that's the goal, history indicates Smith is the guy.

 

Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.

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