The Bears on Tuesday announced coaching changes that most fans and analysts believed were coming while keeping the hierarchy of power in place.
It came as no surprise that the Bears fired six offensive coaches, most notably coordinator Ron Turner. Others who were dismissed included quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, tight ends coach Rob Boras, assistant offensive line coach Luke Butkus, and assistant wide receivers coach Charles London.
The only change the Bears made to the defensive staff was a big one. Lovie Smith agreed to step down from his play-calling duties and announced that he’d be bringing in a new defensive coordinator.
Although I’m sure there are plenty of disappointed Bears fans out there that Ted Phillips, Jerry Angelo, and Smith all remain at their posts, the move was a wise decision from a business perspective. The McCaskey family does not have another business for additional revenue. Hence, it did not make eating the hefty contracts of those in charge a feasible option, especially considering the uncertain financial times to which the NFL appears headed. If there is a lockout in 2011, the Bears not only would have been paying big paychecks to those that they fired but also any new coach or general manager that they brought in.
Still, the choice to retain Angelo and Smith may have made business sense, but from a football perspective, it does not instill great confidence. There will be extra pressure on Angelo to give Smith the talent he needs to improve his football team next year considering the few resources with which Angelo has to work. We all know about the two less draft picks the Bears will have in the upcoming April draft. But unless a new collective bargaining agreement is worked out by Mar. 1, there won’t be a lot of viable options in free agency because most younger free agents will be restricted and not unrestricted. That’ll leave mostly older veterans who are past their prime to fill the voids.
It’s hard to imagine the Bears doing any worse next year than they did this year. Phillips mentioned, after all, that Smith has never had back-to-back losing seasons as head coach of the Bears. Although it’s possible that the Bears struggle again in 2010, one has to assume that with two new coordinators and a healthy Brian Urlacher that they’ll win more than 7 games.
The search for a new offensive and defensive coordinator begins immediately and once the Bears have their coaches in place they can begin to focus on reshaping their roster for next season. Even if the draft and free agency prohibit them from acquiring more than a few new starters, making small changes to the depth on the roster can only help.
Bears fans who were hoping for some kind of restructuring in the front office or at head coach may be disappointed today, but they now have two choices. They can either pout about Phillips, Angelo, and Smith returning and choose to boycott the games next year. Or, they can remain on the bandwagon, ignore any pessimistic feelings they may have about the outlook of the 2010 season, and hope for the best.