The long overdue firing of Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith following the team's fifth missed postseason in the last six years has sparked some intense reactions from both players and fans alike.
It's no secret that the mild-mannered Smith earned a reputation as a "player's coach" and gained the respect and support from his locker room over his nine year tenure in Chicago.
"I have a lot of respect for the guy. He's made friends with a lot of the players. He's a players' coach. I think right now I'm a little surprised, a little sad. Wish I could have done more offensively to help him out," remarked Jay Cutler upon hearing the news of Smith's dismissal.
However, approval from his subordinates and a 81-63 overall record as the Bears' head coach aren't enough to stick with Smith moving forward. Since winning the NFC in 2006 and subsequently losing Super Bowl XLI 29-17 to Peyton Manning's Indianapolis Colts, Lovie's Bears have done little in the way of returning to championship form.
Since Smith took over in 2004, the Bears have ranked higher than 23rd in offense only once. They have ranked 28th or lower four times. Although Chicago was lead by a slew of mediocre quarterbacks and four different offensive coordinators under Lovie's watch their lack of offensive output even after the addition of Pro Bowlers Jay Cutler in 2009 and Brandon Marshall in 2012 could no longer be ignored.
Having beaten their NFC North division foe and arch rival Green Bay Packers only one time in the last nine matchups did not bode well for Smith either. Aaron Rodgers and his cheese-headed companions have simply owned the Bears since the former Cal quarterback took over for Brett Favre as the full time starter in 2008.
Knocking the Bears out of their only postseason since 2006 in route to a 2010 Super Bowl Championship Green Bay's dominance over the Monsters of the Midway is another reason why Lovie had to go.
New general manager Phil Emery made no secret of his intentions to immediately improve the Bears' struggling offense. Trading for perennial Pro Bowl receivers Brandon Marshall, Chicago's first 1,000-yard receiver since Marty Booker in 2002, drafting big-bodied, sure-handed South Carolina Game Cock receiver Alshon Jeffery in the second round and adding bruising backup running back Michael Bush Emery finally surrounded Cutler with some explosive offensive fire power.
Despite Chicago's improved arsenal Lovie and first-time play-caller offensive coordinator Mike Tice's 28th ranked offensive unit were once again carried to a 10-6 record on the shoulders of the Bears' top tier defense.
Narrowly ousted from the postseason as a result of an impressive Week 17 Minnesota Vikings victory over the Packers the Bears' organization and its fans deserve much more than a half hearted smile from Lovie Smith and a "we will try to do better next year" approach from their head coach.
Kudos to GM Phil Emery for pulling the plug on a well-liked "player's coach" in favor of someone who will hopefully jump start the pathetic offense and catapult Chicago back into championship contention.