On Sunday, I threatened to burn every piece of Bears paraphernalia in my wardrobe if they brought Lovie Smith back next year after becoming just the second NFL team in history — and the first not coached by Norv Turner — to miss the playoffs after a 7-1 start.
A day later, after gratefully avoiding a shopping trip for sweatshirts thanks to the Bears decision to part ways with Lovie, I cannot be more enthusiastic in my endorsement of him as the next head coach of the Buffalo Bills. (And I don’t even hate Buffalo or the Bills. In fact, I’m rather fond of both).
The suggestion will likely give Bills fans nightmarish flashbacks to the Dick Jauron Era, as it would be another Bears castoff trying to lead Buffalo from the NFL wilderness it has wandered through since Wade Phillips benched Doug Flutie and karmaically set the wheels in motion for the Music City Miracle.
But bear with me, Buffalo. (And pardon the pun in the last sentence). Smith is the perfect candidate for what ails you.
Whereas Chicago badly needs an offensive-minded coach at this juncture, Buffalo needs a defensive one. The Bills defense was among the league’s most porous this season, allowing 27.2 points per game. The Bears were one of the best, finishing third with just 17.3 points allowed per game, which makes their inability to make the playoffs even more maddening.
Lovie’s Cover-2 scheme is built around the ability to rush the passer from the front four. A healthy Mario Williams at defensive end is the perfect piece to build that around. And with the 8th pick in this year’s draft, Buffalo should be high enough to snag Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti T’eo, who is extremely proficient at pass defense — he could easily become the next Brian Urlacher for Smith at that position.
Offensively, Lovie’s best Bears teams got great play from running backs who could run and catch. C.J. Spiller fits the mold Chicago had with Thomas Jones and Matt Forte over the course of Smith’s career.
As a city, Buffalo is a great fit for Lovie. There isn’t the same media glare as Chicago, which is the second-largest market in the NFL, and the largest market with just one team. His low-key approach, which annoyed fans and media who wanted a fiery Ditka-type personality running the ship, would play well somewhere smaller.
In a league where terrible coaches are frequently recycled (paging Norv Turner), a guy with an 81-63 career record deserves another chance. Like a once-great relationship that lost its spark, the Bears and Smith are two parties who were only going to see better results by moving in another direction.
The Bills would be fools to not stand outside his door with the bouquet to be his rebound. The worst that could happen is consistent mediocrity — and at this point, even that is something Bills fans would welcome with open arms.