When Lovie Smith took the head coaching job with the Chicago Bears in 2004 he made one very prescient statement:“Our number one goal….the number one goal we’ll have…..is to beat the Green Bay Packers.”
How Smith could have know that the Pack would replace Brett Favre with an even better Quartback in Aaron Rodgers is a subject for horoscope bloggers. However Smith was definitely correct 8 years ago—for the last 20 years—-the Green Bay Packers have been the team to beat in the NFL Central.
For the last 50 years the Chicago Bears have been in search of a Quarterback. In 2006 the Bears made it to the Super Bowl. They lost to one of the best ever to play the postion-Peyton Manning’s Colts. This year must be viewed as Lovie’s final, unless he goes deep into the post-season.
Although Smith has never had consistent QB play like the Pack, Its been a tale of two QB tenures—Smiths record against the Pack. During the first 4 years, Smiths teams went 6-2 against Brett Favre’s teams, including the Super Bowl run. The last 4 years have fallen short, against Aaron Rodgers, the Bears are a lowly 2 and 6.
Perhaps no loss was more painful than the last game of the 2010 season where the Bears did everything they could to try and keep Green Bay out of the playoffs, only to lose on the last day of the regular season, and again in the post season finale—the NFC championship. The championship game was steeped in controversy as the much maligned Bear starter, Jay Cutler sat with injury in the 2nd half, while Caleb Hanie did a yeoman’s job in his stead, Yet the Bears fell short and lost the title game to the eventual Super Bowl Champs. You guessed it, it was the Green Bay Packers.
Which brings me to my last point. Beside being able to beat Green Bay, the Bears must have a decent replacement QB, when and if the starter goes down. Super Bowl history is laden with backups getting the team a ring, Tom Brady(started season as a backup), Jeff Hostelter, Earl Morrell(with Miami), Doug Williams, and Jim Plunkett are among the names:.
Maybe it’s not a Hall of Fame QB, that the Bears need. With the only Super Bowl win notched with the best defense to ever play the game in 1985, the Bears did it with stellar D, and with Jim McMahon who became a veritable backup due to injury during the rest of his career.
McMahon got a titular ring, as a Green Bay backup in 1996.. Cutler may be the answer as a starter for Chicago..However the failure to get a decent backup after Hanie was a disaster last year, fell squarely on Lovie. His Rex or Caleb is “our guy” has grown stale.. The team that won the Super Bowl, the New York football Giants, were a Wild Card.
So the single most important factor for a successful Bear year is beating Green Bay, Smith is right. A very close 2nd is depth at Quarterback, you cannot be guaranteed continued success in the NFL without a viable backup.
Smith and Bears management can ill afford to rest on their laurels and be unprepared this year. If the Bears are to have any hope supplanting Green Bay and even Detroit, they have solid coaching, great quarterback play, and an aged Defense must prevail. Besides Lovie knows that Thurston is a Green Bay legend and the outlook for this year is fuzzy at best..
Can Lovie rescue his career, or will he be voted off the Island?