A lot was expected of the Chicago Bears entering the 2009 NFL season. After adding their long sought after “franchise quarterback” in Jay Cutler, many experts picked the Bears to win the NFC North and be a top contender for a place in the Super Bowl.
Well, the Bears are currently doing the Super Bowl shuffle right out of the NFC’s playoff picture. After seven weeks of football, Chicago is 3-3, sitting at third place in the NFC Central and coming off an embarrassing 45-10 drubbing at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals.
The team’s performance thus far has put head coach Lovie Smith squarely on the Hot Seat. Fans and columnists are already calling for his head, but that’s nothing new. What really shocked me was when Bears GM Jerry Angelo took a shot at Lovie in comments to ChicagoBears.com. He said: “What really surprised me was that we weren’t able to make the needed adjustments in terms of slowing (the Bengals) down or stopping them.”
Ohhhhh damn, buuurrrrrn! You go Jerry!
OK, so the comments weren’t that harsh but when a GM clearly takes a shot at his coaching staff it’s a clear indication that not all is well with the relationship.
Yesterday ESPN.com’s rumor central was reporting that Smith’s $5.5 million salary was the highest among all NFL coaches. Um, what? Really? I mean, Lovie Smith seems like a wonderful guy but the highest paid coach in the NFL? I know the details of Bill Belichick’s deal have never been disclosed by the New England Patriots, so that takes him out of the equation, but is Lovie Smith really the second best coach in the NFL? I’m not saying he’s not, I’m just asking. He signed a four-year, $22 million contract in February of 2007.
Smith’s career record is currently 48-38 (plus a 2-2 record in the postseason) and the Bears have made the playoffs just twice on his watch (2005 and 2006), though they did make (and lose) the Super Bowl in 2006. If that’s the resume of the second-best coach in the NFL, we’re all in serious trouble.
This year the Bears’ vaunted defense (which Smith presides over) ranks 16th in the NFL. Yes, they are missing linebacker Brian Urlacher but that’s still awfully low for a team known for it’s defensive prowess. They’re also surrendering 24.0 points per game, which ranks 22nd in the league.
Offensively the Bears have looked better than the past at times but about the same at others. They’re currently sit at 21st in the league in total offense, averaging 312.2 yards per game.
Jay “The Savior” Cutler has been anything but. He’s been no better than average. To this point in 2009, Captain Sourpuss has completed 136-of-209 passes (65.1 percent) for 1,452 yards, 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. That gives him a career-worst quarterback rating of 82.9, placing him 21st in the NFL out of the 35 players who qualify.
Here are some of the guys with better ratings than Jay-Jay: David Garrard (83.9), Matt Hasselbeck (85.0), Jason Campbell (85.8), Kevin Kolb (88.9), Matt Ryan (90.2), Joe Flacco (93.8) and GASP! Kyle Orton (100.1).
Hey! Yeah, you, Bears fan! Put the noose down and get off the stool, it’s not worth it!
The real problem this year has been who the Bears have beaten. They topped (5-2) Pittsburgh at home 17-14 when the Steelers looked bloody awful and Jeff Reed missed two fairly easy field goals. Then they knocked off the (2-4) Seattle Seahawks 25-19 but needed a late drive to do it. The next week they smacked around the hapless (1-5) Detroit Lions 48-24.
Chicago has dropped games against the Bengals (5-2), Atlanta Falcons (4-2) and Green Bay Packers (4-2).
So other than a semi-fluke-ish win over the Steelers the Bears have lost to every decent team on their schedule. That’s the reason Lovie should be worried. How the Bears look this weekend against the atrocious Cleveland Browns will be very telling, since Chicago is coming off of back-to-back losses.
While I personally don’t think Smith is currently in trouble, if he doesn’t get his team competing at the level of a playoff team he may need to start polishing up that resume.