At least if you believe several reports that have come out this week.
It really should surprise no one, however, if Chicago Bears’ coach Lovie Smith coaches his last game for the team on January 3rd at Ford Field. The Bears, at 4-7, have been atrocious this season after just about everyone in Chicago anointed them Super Bowl champions back in August.
While those expectations were completely unrealistic, the Bears have underachieved this season and the fact remains the team hasn’t made the playoffs since their Super Bowl appearance after the 2006 season. Three playoff-less seasons in Chicago isn’t going to get it done.
This year’s Bears’ team has no identity. Just ask injured linebacker Brian Urlacher.
“Look, I love Jay, and I understand he’s a great player who can take us a long way, and I still have faith in him,” Urlacher said. “But I hate the way our identity has changed. We used to establish the run and wear teams down and try not to make mistakes, and we’d rely on our defense to keep us in the game and make big plays to put us in position to win. Kyle Orton might not be the flashiest quarterback, but the guy is a winner, and that formula worked for us. I hate to say it, but that’s the truth.”
That is as much Lovie’s fault as anyone.
It doesn’t take into account the personnel decisions made by general manager Jerry Angelo, though. The Bears’ offensive line is bad. The Bears’ defense is old. The Bears’ receiving corp is a joke.
These areas are Angelo’s fault and it’s not improbable that both he and Smith will be gone after the season.
Enter former Pittsburgh Steelers’ coach Bill Cowher.
The Bears have reportedly reached out to Cowher through an intermediary to gauge his interest in joining the team. Cowher, in turn, has said he won’t talk about any positions with any teams who still have a coach in place.
Pro Football Weekly has also speculated that Cowher might be the guy to eventually end up in Chicago.
“While the McCaskeys were running the team, it was (Mike) Ditka, (Dave) Wannstedt and maybe — if they take back ownership — Cowher,” said one league source. “Blue-collar town, blue-collar guy, passionate football city.
“It makes sense and fits like a glove on many levels.”
If the Bears want a guy to bring back the gritty run-the-football, stop-the-run teams of earlier this decade, Cowher is an obvious choice. However, Cowher has no experience as a general manager and is therefore more than likely only a candidate to replace Smith.
Someone who may be a candidate to replace both Smith and Angelo is former Denver Broncos’ coach Mike Shanahan, who served in both capacities in Denver.
While Shanahan has already met with the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins, coming to Chicago would make sense. Shanahan is from Chicago and developed Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler when he was a Bronco.
Shanahan made his name in the league as a quarterback coach and later an offensive coordinator.
“Chicago’s roster has slipped in recent years,” said one NFL talent evaluator, “but they do have a quarterback (in Cutler). Shanahan showed he can coach the guy.
“Going from Shanahan to (Bears QB coach) Pep Hamilton… is a huge step back, and it’s clear it has frustrated Jay Cutler. The Bears need to invest more heavily in someone who can get Cutler back on track.”
If the Bears are looking for someone to design an offense around their franchise quarterback, Shanahan may be their man.
The smart money says Lovie’s tenure in Chicago is nearly over and whichever way the Bears go, the next regime will need to build up some talent before the Bears are back in the thick of things again.