Report of potential coaching change increases pressure to perform

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The Bears have a lot more riding on Sunday afternoon’s game against the division rival Minnesota Vikings than pride, and I’m not talking about the playoffs.

Tuesday evening, Pro Football Weekly publisher and editor Hub Arkush reported on WSCR 670 The Score that he had received confirmation from sources that the Bears’ ownership was exploring options for changing the general manager and/or head coach. News of this revelation spread quickly — as it tends to do in today’s age of the internet — and it reached the Bears front office Wednesday.

As would be expected, the Bears’ public relations issued a statement saying, “There’s absolutely no truth” to Arkush’s report.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that the Bears would deny the report because there are still six games left in the season.

It also doesn’t come as a surprise that when confronted with the report, certain Bears players either played down the notion of a regime change or questioned who in the organization would have revealed such information.

Nevertheless, this information is out there and it won’t go anywhere. In fact, if anything, it’s only going to grow stronger if the Bears continue to struggle for the remainder of the season. The players can suggest that the report holds no water or that it doesn’t affect them, but don’t be fooled. This piece of news will weigh heavily in the back of their minds whether for the better or the worse.

The Bears’ locker room is mostly, if not completely in support of Lovie Smith. I’m not sure if they’ll take Smith’s job security as a means of motivation in a “win one for the Gipper” sort of way. But rest assured, they know that Smith’s seat is getting hot.

Arkush’s report comes at one of the worst times for Smith, whose team is getting ready to face the toughest team on its schedule. In 2008, the Bears collapsed in Minnesota and suffered a 20-point loss. The Vikings have gotten better since then and the Bears have gotten worse. The last thing Smith needs is another blowout like the ones suffered earlier this season against Cincinnati and Arizona.

If that does happen, it could be “three strikes and you’re out” for Smith if the ownership is seriously exploring coaching replacements. While I don’t expect the Bears to make a coaching change after the season, losing badly to one of their division rivals won’t exactly help Smith’s long-term future.

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