When the Chicago Bears open the 2009 season at that toilet in Wisconsin on a warm September evening, it won’t be Jay Cutler and new-look offense I’ll be focused on. Yes, I think the Prime Cut we see in Week One will be vastly different than the Cutler of Week Ten. Yes, I think the team would be wise to add a veteran receiver to the mix. Yes, I think it may take some time for the coaching staff to correctly align the boys up front and a few weeks more for that group to gel.
But when I read comments like these from Jerry Angelo, regarding the impact of our new defensive coaching assignments, my Bullshit Alarm sounds pretty loudly:
I think they’ll make a huge difference. When you have quality coaching,
you’re going to see it reflected in the performance of the players.
It’s a coaching league. We see that because of all the attrition that
each team has every year. Coaches have to get players up to speed right
away. I anticipate that our coaches will have a very big impact, just
as much as a quality player would have.
I might be fine with this statement if the coaches discussed were not Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli. This is a defense that struggled covering down the field on third downs, entering the season with a noticeable weakness at the safety position. This is a team that never pressured the quarterback in big situations, adding a coach who’ll be remembered as the only head man to ever go 0-16.
Why make no personnel acquisitions on the defensive side, outside of bringing in an outcast linebacker from St. Louis? Arrogance. Plain and simple. I’ve long constested (and written) that Lovie Smith couches an annoying amount of over-confidence underneath his aw shucks, hillbilly demeanor. Look at his solutions to the struggling unit he prided himself on building and developing: (1) Fire every coach but Bob Babich, his buddy and the man responsible for the play-calling. (2) Take over all the play-calling duties himself. (3) Bring in only one player – a man he drafted while the DC in St. Louis. Lovie’s answers have all, essentially, been Lovie.
And that is why the 2009 season falls squarely on his shoulders. Anything less than a playoff appearance should lead to his immediate dismissal and the hiring of one of the four Super Bowl winning coaches who’ll be itching to get back into the game. (My vote would go to Mike Holmgren, though I doubt he’d be willing to share the talent decisions with Jerry.)
If Lovie does do what we all want him to do and wins the NFC North, the opposite must also hold true. Lovie must be given the keys to the kingdom going forward and a lengthy contract extension.
That is why the 2009 season will define this organization for the next half-decade and why the Jay Cutler story may only be a sub-plot.