Lovie Smith’s Non-Challenge Decision Grounds for Dismissal

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Temporarily forget the fact that Jay Cutler has been sacked 19 times in three games. For a moment, overlook how Chicago Bears Coach Lovie Smith brought in a new offensive coordinator to build a pass-happy offense around linemen that are allergic to pass protection and wide receivers that are too mentally challenged to execute their routes efficiently. Or that the front office spent money on a valuable weapon like Chester Taylor, only to have him see minimal carries and scant playing time.

Lovie has allowed all these problems to occur on his watch, and he should be held accountable for his negligence. But the most fireable offense of all, he committed today in the 17-14 loss to Washington. Because he failed to challenge a call that he would have easily won, and that call would have been enough to change the L to a W.

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Who Had The Worse Weekend, the Chicago Bears or the Illinois Fighting Illini?

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By Paul Schmidt

For most Chicago area football fans, the weekend wasn’t a complete loss. For anyone who is a University of Illinois graduate and a Chicago Bears fan…let’s say you’ve had better weekends, and leave it at that.

During the awfulness that was the Bears’ game on Sunday, it spawned somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 tweets on Twitter about just how bad the Bears were, and the most proposed question was, “Who would win in a game of football, the Bears or the University of Illinois?”

I opined in response to one of these questions that it’s just a silly question, that of course the Bears would win.

It took a tweet from @bears_insider that made me really think about what had just happened: “Ah, but what if Juice Williams wasn’t playing for the Illini?”

It really says something about how bad the Bears looked that that actually made me think for just a moment.

This is why, despite the insanity that was the Illinois game (over 200 yards rushing given up to Purdue by Illinois’ now-101st ranked run defense, rotating three quarterbacks and simultaneously killing both Jacob Charest’s and Eddie McGee’s confidences), the Bears had the far worse weekend.

Jay Cutler cemented himself as an enigma this season, sort of a higher profile Rex Grossman — Each game’s outcome will be determined in the first few minutes of offensive game play, whether Good Jay or Evil Jay shows up.

But Cutler wasn’t the only problem, nor the biggest problem.

That would be Lovie Smith and the defense.

Lovie took control of the playcalling this season, in response to Bob Babich struggling with that aspect of being defensive coordinator. This was supposed to be a return to the glory days of  Lovie’s Cover 2 (or Tampa 2, if you prefer) defense, back when the Bears, in 2006, had a ball-hawking opportunistic defense that created points on their own.

If you remember the 2006 defense, you’ll remember just how dominant and dangerous they were. Of course, with three more years of age and games played under their belt, and largely the same unit on the field, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that, on Sunday, the unit looked lost, slow and basically underprepared.

Slow, I completely understand.  I felt this whole season came down to how well the defense was going to play, and the health of Brian Urlacher, Tommie Harris and Peanut Tillman. While Peanut has been healthy for the most part, Urlacher obviously is done for the season and Harris has been completely M. I. A. when he has played.

I cannot defend the defense looking lost and underprepared, however, and that blame falls right at Lovie Smith’s feet.  Since he took control of the defense back, they have been suspect at best.  The only especially good thing that has been said this season was early on the strength of the play of the front four — which was basically all attributed to Rod Marinelli, not Lovie. Motivation, it would seem, is not Lovie’s strong suit, as the defense was completely embarassed on Sunday for no apparent reason.

Lovie’s also been far too slow to get plays on the field, which is a problem given that that means the team is slow to line up in formation, which in turn means that not everyone is always set and in position for the start of the play.

This smacks of unpreparedness of the worst kind — This isn’t the team not listening to the coaches, or going through the motions. This is the head coach, Lovie Smith, in charge of calling the defensive plays because he wanted to be (not because he had to), not being prepared enough to get plays and formations on to the field quick enough for his team.

This is Lovie Smith not recognizing the offensive personnel on the field quick enough and being able to respond.

zook2This is Lovie Smith in over his head.

In Champaign, the heat is on Ron Zook and his coaching staff. It’s definitely reaching the boiling point, and he needs to produce wins now or face some dire consequences in the near future.

Still, after Sunday’s Bears’ game, I can’t help but think that Zook probably felt a little less pressure. Even if only for a day.

Chicago Bears Preseason Locale Shifts

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By Paul M. Banks

When the Bears shift location of their preseason practices and scrimmages, you truly know that autumn is near. On Thursday, the Bears broke Training Camp in Bourbonnais, and packed their bags for heading north to Halas Hall. It’s there, in the posh suburb of Lake Forest where the Bears will finish up the second half of their 2009 NFL preseason. The immediate focus will be on prepping for the preseason home opener versus the New York Giants on Saturday night.

This practice game will feature three Bears stars: Matt Forte, Tommie Harris, and Greg Olsen, who did not play in the preseason opener. “We want them to have a good series before they come out. Our history has been, for the most part, that in the second game the guys will play into the second quarter,” Lovie Smith told the media following the final practice session at Camp Bourbonnais.

The final session downstate featured a cutesy switcharoo. Many players switched jerseys with each other. Watching quarterback Jay Cutler dropping back and throwing passes while wearing Brian Urlacher’s number was a unique, if not bizarre experience. Usually #6 Cutler wearing Urlacher’s #54 was a great show of solidarity, and should make people forget what ex-teammate and current Minnesota Vikings receiver Bobby Wade claims Urlacher allegedly said about Cutler.

Lovie spoke about Cutler and Urlacher bonding through jersey sharing. “They kind of look alike, big stature, but that’s a tradition with our players right now, a lot of energy in camp. There’s nothing like the last day of training camp…I can still tell who Devin Hester is, some of the little skill guys even in a lineman number, you can still feel good about who he is,” Lovie said of the chicanery and tomfoolery.

So far this preseason has been industry standard. You’ve seen…

1. The multitude of really dumb fans reading too much into preseason games (i.e. idiots who now think the Cutler deal was a waste just because he looked terrible during the glorified practice in Buffalo last week).
2. Desperate sportswriters hyping up anything at all in order to manufacture something to talk about out of a non-story (Cutler’s Saturday night comments about Devin Hester were still being discussed on sports talk radio today.)

3. Position battles that might not sort themselves out until when games actually have significance. (Other than Hester, who’s going to play Wide Receiver?)

Expect more of all three between now and when the season kicks off in northern Wisconsin September 13th.

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