I have to say that I am not surprised that the Chicago Bears decided to fire Lovie Smith after the second late-season collapse by the team that lead the division the first half of the year. I also agree with the decision, mostly. During the entire tenure of Lovie Smith, the Bears' offense has been incompetant. Lovie is a great defensive mind, but I'm just not sold on his ability as a head coach. And judging by the fact that no other teams hired him, I guess I'm not the only one who had doubts.
The Bears went through several offensive coordinators during Smith's time, including the revolutionary mind of Mike Martz, but the team's offense remained abysmal throughout. They changed quarterbacks, changed offensive linemen, changed running backs, and rotated through a number of receivers. They even changed stadiums. The only constant was Smith.
The firing of Lovie Smith just further expands my concerns with the Bears' defense. I've already expressed fear that the defense is getting old and that veterans like Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, and Charles Tillman just might not have much left in their tanks. The window is definitely closing for these players, and they can't afford to wait around for several "rebuilding" years in order to become championship contenders again. I want to see Brian Urlacher win a SuperBowl with the Chicago Bears, but if the team's new coaching staff isn't able to fix Chicago's offensive woes, while maintaining strength on defense, then it doesn't look like Urlacher will get that ring. At least, not with the Bears.
Urlacher is set to become a free agent, but he has already stated that he wants to stay with the Bears, even if it means a pay cut. So his future is completely in the hands of the new coaching staff and general manager Phil Emery.
It's too bad that the Bears couldn't find a way to keep Smith as a defensive coordinator, but that might have caused unnecessary drama and distractions.
Marc Trestman pulled out of the Canadian League to coach the Bears
The new head coach of the Chicago Bears will be former Canadian Football League coach Marc Trestman, who formerly coached the Montreal Alouettes and won several championships. He's an offensive-minded coach, and hopefully he'll be able to turn the team's offense around.
New Chicago Bears head coach, Marc Trestman.
One of the reasons that I like the Bears is because they are a historically defensive-minded team. I really hope that Trestman is a competent defensive coach as well, as I'd hate to see the Bears needing to score 35 points to win.
Other coaches out the door
But that isn't the extent of the changes in Chicago. Lovie Smith wasn't the only casualty of the 2012 collapse: the rest of his coaching staff is also being shown the door. Almost every coach and assistant coach on the team is either being fired or leaving. This includes both offensive coordinator Mike Tice and defensive coordinator Rod Miranelli.
None of this really surprises me. Mike Tice did a good job of rallying Chicago's offensive line a few years ago to greatly reduce the amount of sacks that Jay Cutler took, but he disappointed as offensive coordinator in 2012. I'm also not terribly frightened by the loss of Rod Miranelli. The Bears lost Ron Rivera after their SuperBowl run in 2006, and the defense survived. I'm more worried about the impact that the age of the defense and the loss of a defensive-minded head coach will have.
New QB coach Matt Cavanaugh
One piece of news that does surprise me is the hiring of new QB coach Matt Cavanaugh. For one thing, Jeremy Bates is gone. Bates was Jay Cutler's QB coach back in Denver, and the two have a good rapport. Secondly, Cavanaugh's track record is very shaky. He was the offensive coordinator with the Bears for a few years in the late 90's when Dave Wannstedt was coaching, and Eric Kramer was QB. He was also Mark Sanchez's QB coach in New York the past few years, and that has not been a pretty picture either. I would have expected Bates to remain as QB coach, assuming that the Trestman and the Bears intend to keep Cutler for the long term. Jay Cutler might want to watch his back, especially if the Bears seriously start eyeing players like Tim Tebow.
Special teams coordinator Dave Toub off to the Chiefs
Possibly the worst loss in the coaching staff is veteran special teams coordinator Dave Toub. He has been hired by the Chiefs. The Bears' special teams unit has been one of its most consistent strengths over that past six or seven years, and Toub's play design is a big part of that. The Bears will be replacing Toub with former Dallas special teams coach Joe DeCamillis. Hopefully, this will be a mere sidestep, but only time will tell. DeCamillis has been successful in the past, but Dallas has had a pretty shaky (but sometimes explosive) special teams unit the past few years. DeCamillis will be coming off of working with talents like Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, so he should feel right at home with Devin Hester and Johnny Knox (who will hopefully be able to play again next year).
I honestly can't believe that the Bears would let a talent like Toub go. This is a huge mistake for the organization. We can all point to a decline in production from Devin Hester as evidence that Toub isn't as good as he may seem, but that would be shortsighted. Even when Hester was not playing, the Bears consistently found dangerous weapons in the return game. Nathan Vasher, Corey Graham, and Johnny Knox all had success as returners when Hester wasn't on the field, making the Bears special teams unit one of the deepest in the league. It seemed that it didn't matter who was being plugged in, the Bears were seeing success in the kick return game. Combine that with the acquisition of one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history, Robbie Gould; some pretty good punters in Brad Maynard and Adam Podlesh; and a great long-snapper Patrick Mannely; and it is apparent that the Bears' special teams coaches were nothing if not good at evaluating talent.
Trestman and Emery are still in the process of finalizing the team's new coaching staff, but most major holes have been filled. Several of the new coaches are being brought in from the Canadian league, so it is very possible that they may be bringing some radical and/or revolutionary philosophies with them, since the CFL has unique strategies based around variations in rules. The CFL is a very pass-happy league, with the field being wider and longer, and receivers being able to move forward prior to the snap of the ball. If these new coaches do bring some new offensive concepts with them, Chicago's offense next year could be very novel and difficult for defenses to prepare for (much like the Wildcat and Read Option).
Sadly though, I don't expect much from the 2013 Bears. At least not yet. But an impressive draft and training camp could change my disposition very quickly!