The Bears on Friday announced that the team has reached a two-year contract extension with head coach Lovie Smith that will keep him under contract with the Bears through the 2013 season.
I wrote an entry a few weeks ago stating why I believed extending Smith’s contract is the best course of action, so I won’t get too much into repeating myself, but I’ll highlight the main reasons.
The biggest reason extending Smith’s contract was the right move is because he’s a winner. His winning percentage as a head coach is better than the majority of the coaches in the league.
Critics will point out Smith’s questionable game day decision making and I can’t argue with them on some accounts, but he has made improvements throughout his seven years with the team. In fact, one of the major facets of Smith’s job as head coach that has improved is that he surrounded himself these past two years with great assistant coaches, compared to earlier in his career when he hired newbies with little experience. No coach is perfect and they all make mistakes, but can they improve is the question.
Another reason that extending Smith’s contract made the most sense is because he’s won games with questionable talent. A lot of Lovie-haters will point out that Smith “can’t develop talent” and that the Bears have some of the worst depth in the NFL. If that’s the case, why do players that the Bears cut wind up out of football instead of latching on with some other team? Why can’t some other coach sign these outcasts like Dan Bazuin, Michael Okwo, Airese Currie, Josh Beekman, and Dusty Dvoracek and develop them?
The answer is because those players are not very good, and it’s Jerry Angelo’s and the scouting department’s fault for giving them to Smith.
Critics of Smith can’t talk out of both sides of their mouths. They can’t say the Bears have a bad team and also say Smith has been a bad coach while leading the team to three division titles in seven years.
A third possible reason it made sense to extend Smith’s contract is because we don’t even know if there will be football this year. The labor dispute is ongoing and the latest news is that the two sides are still very far apart from an agreement. What happens if this fight goes on through the summer and cuts into training camp time? It would be unfair to judge Smith — or any other coach, for that matter — on the results of a shortened, or interrupted, season. This would have been Smith’s last year under contract and it’d be wrong to judge him on this type of year.
Finally, the last reason it made sense to extend Smith’s contract is because Angelo is also signed through the 2013 season. And unless the Bears extend him — which would be a colossal mistake considering his poor track record — it wouldn’t make sense to fire Smith after the upcoming season and then have Angelo sign a two-year lame duck coach. If the Bears signed a new coach after the upcoming season, that coach would not be able to turn things around in a two-year window while trying to bring in new talent to fit his own system.
The best decision was to extend Smith, give him a three- or four-year window with the core of Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher, and Jay Cutler to see what he can do with some actual talent, and let the marriage between Angelo and Smith play out for better or worse.