The Bears announced that GM Phil Emery informed Lovie Smith Monday morning he will not return as the team’s head coach for the 2013 season.
Smith was hired in 2004 and led the team to an 81-63 record, three division titles, two NFC championship games and a Super Bowl appearance following the 2006 season in his nine-year tenure as the head coach of the Bears.
The Bears beat the Lions on Sunday to get to 10-6 on the year, but lost a tiebreaker with the Vikings for the No. 6 seed in the NFC.
The way we see it
Coming off a 10-6 season might seem like an odd time to fire a head coach, but it’s clear that either team chairman George McCaskey or GM Phil Emery, or both, expected at least a playoff appearance, and probably more, from the 2012 Bears, especially after starting with a 7-1 record. A one-and-done showing in the postseason probably would not have been enough for Smith to save his job.
The Bears finished third in the NFC North in each of the past two seasons, and McCaskey has grown tired of watching the Bears lose to the Packers (back-to-back division championships), who have won their last six and eight of their last nine meetings with Chicago.
In the end, Smith never was able to get the Bears’ offense trending upward, even after hiring four different offensive coordinators, and that cost him. There was no reason to believe he would suddenly figure out how to solve the problems that have long plagued his offense, which has finished ranked 23rd or lower in eight of Smith's nine seasons at the helm, including each of the past six seasons.
There are already reports that the Bears have asked for permission to interview Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, and it will be no surprise if the Bears end up hiring an offensive-minded head coach to replace one who lost his job because he never was able to make things work well on that side of the ball.
Smith’s firing will be popular among a large segment of the team’s fan base, but it was not greeted warmly by a veteran corps of players that remain loyal to Smith. Big changes are coming to the Bears, and jobs that seemed fairly safe a day ago are feeling much less so now.