With increased calls for current Bears coach Lovie Smith to become former Bears coach Lovie Smith, several current Bears players have spoken out in support of the man who has been in charge of the team for six seasons.
Here’s a sampling, from Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune (via Bob Glauber of Newsday).
“I was here when coach Smith wasn’t here,” defensive end Alex Brown said. “So, I remember how it was. Not to say anything bad about coach [Dick] Jauron, but it’s a lot different now.”
(“Different than Dick Jauron” isn’t exactly an ideal endorsement.)
“Lovie, as a coach, is what this team needs,” tight end Desmond Clark said. “We need that
steadying force. . . . To have that steadying voice with the same message
coming every week is good for this team. . . . We’re not computers. You don’t just punch in a bunch of
numbers and tell us to go out and do it. We’re humans and we play a
“We also have an opponent that we have to play against. So when you put those game plans in . . . they don’t always work.”
(Again, hardly an ideal endorsement.)
“The thing about coach Smith is that I trust him,” cornerback Charles Tillman said. “I
trust his decisions. I have faith in him, I have confidence in him.”
But what the players think is only a small part of the equation. Maybe the players are fine with being a hair above .500, and maybe the players prefer something that’s familiar and comfortable over the kind of accountability and unpredictability that gets men to perform beyond the ceilings they may have placed over themselves.
And so while player discontent often is a factor in making a change, the fact that a coach is liked shouldn’t matter much when the time comes to decide whether the coach needs to go.
Plenty of coaches are liked by their players. And plenty of coaches who are liked by their players get fired. The bigger question is whether the Bears will do enough in 2009 to fulfill the expectations created by the trade that sent two first-round picks and more to Denver for quarterback Jay Cutler.
So far, the expectations have not been fulfilled. And by all appearances they won’t be, at least not this year.
Whether that’s enough to get Smith another season isn’t known. But if he’s ultimately fighting for his job, he’ll need a thicker shield than “my players still like me.”