The Chicago Bears are coming off their best win of the season, a 36-7 victory over the Houston Texans. The win ended a six-game losing streak that made head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace’s seats hot as the equator — and it will take the team winning out, in addition to outside help — to even make the playoffs, which may not even help Nagy or Pace at this point.
Meanwhile, in a different part of Illinois, ex-Bears head coach Lovie Smith, who led Chicago to its last Super Bowl appearance in 2006, was relieved from his duties as coach at the University of Illinois this weekend.
llinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman said the following in a statement about Smith’s release: “Based on extensive evaluation of the program’s current state and future outlook, I have concluded the program is not progressing at the rate we should expect at this advanced stage in coach Smith’s tenure,” Whitman said in a release. “To achieve our competitive objectives, I believe new leadership of the football program is required.”
With the Bears still in the midst of yet another disappointing season despite their most recent victory, several former players took the opportunity to endorse Smith as Nagy’s possible replacement.
Follow the Heavy on Bears Facebook page, where you can weigh in on all the latest Bears-related breaking news, rumors, content and more!
Ex-Bears Olin Kreutz, Alex Brown Push for Lovie Smith’s Return to Chicago
While appearing on NBC Sports’ The Football Aftershow, former defensive end Alex Brown and ex-All-Pro center Olin Kreutz, who both played under Smith in Chicago, took a mom ent to endorse their former head coach as a possible replacement for Matt Nagy.
Brown, in particular, seemed to think bringing Smith back to the Windy City was a good idea. “Every one of those years that I played for the Bears, except for maybe my rookie year, and even that year, just mentality-wise was a year where I felt we could make it to the playoffs, was a team that we could make it to the playoffs with,” Smith said, per NBC Sports Chicago. “You know, how far we went I don’t know. Each one of those years we were fighting for a playoff spot. Whether we got in or we didn’t, whatever happened, we were fighting for a playoff spot. That’s more than a lot of teams in the NFL can say every year.”
When co-host of The Aftershow, David Kaplan, suggested Bears fans may want to move on and not live in the past by bringing back former coaches, Brown responded: “They don’t like winning huh? They don’t want winning? … He went to two NFC championship games, that’s what he went to.”
Olin Kreutz agreed, although acknowledged a bit of bias in reference to his former head coach. “Everybody knows the amount of respect we all have for Lovie, we think he is a great coach,” Kreutz said. “I mean we’re biased. What we think about this man will never change.”
Bears Need an Offensive-Minded Head Coach, Because It’s 2020
While Lovie Smith was a wonderful head coach for the Bears in his tenure, he also went without a Super Bowl ring, and he has done nothing since leaving Chicago to merit a return. Smith went 17-39 in his five seasons with the Fighting Illini which, per the Chicago Tribune, was the worst winning percentage (.304) of any football coach at Illinois since the 1970s. Smith was also just 10-33 in the Big Ten Conference.
Smith had five winning seasons with the Bears in his nine years as head coach, but he did not perform well against average or above average teams — at all. He went 51-15 against teams with losing records, 11-9 against teams with above .500 records and 19-39 against teams with winning records. He was 81-63 in his nine seasons in Chicago, and he had an 8-24 record in two seasons as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
When he was first hired as Bears head coach, Smith correctly surmised that the NFC North would go through Green Bay, and he publicly vowed to make beating the Packers one of the primary goals of his tenure. And he did — for his first few seasons.
The Bears went 6-2 against Green Bay in Smith’s first eight games, an impressive streak that included winning four in a row at Lambeau Field — a feat that has not happened since. But he went 2-9 against the Packers after that, losing his final six games against the Bears’ biggest rivals. Smith was fired after a 10-6 season — but the 10-6 record was third in the NFC North that year, and the Bears lost back-to-back games against the Packers and Vikings that year.
Considering how badly Chicago has struggled since Smith’s departure, it’s easy to understand why some want him back. But it’s also important to remember why he was relieved of his duties in the first place: He failed to compete in a division he once vowed to win.