Packer fans know from past experience that the first couple days after a playoff-free season are not always healthy for the employment of a playoff-free coach.
In 2000, while on the way to a New Year’s/Rose Bowl party, the radio broke the news that coach Ray Rhodes was going to be fired after just one season. The Badgers won, the Packers won their season finale the next day, and Rhodes was fired. Nine years earlier, coach Lindy Infante was also fired by the same general manager, Ron Wolf, despite winning the Packers’ season finale, probably because that improved the Packers’ record all the way to 4–12.
The Bears did not fire their coach, Lovie Smith, Tuesday. They fired Smith’s boss, general manager Jerry Angelo.
The Chicago Tribune’s Steve Rosenbloom makes you wonder why (or perhaps be happy that) the Bears didn’t fire Angelo before now:
Talent wins, and the Bears are sadly and obviously bereft of it.
If you could suffer through most of the weapons-grade stupidity offered by Lovie Smith at his 2011 post-mortem Monday, you get to the part where Smith indicated injuries were a killer of a 7-3 season.
It was one injury: Jay Cutler’s. It exposed how badly Angelo executed the draft, which is his first and most important job. …
Cutler deodorized a lot of bad things, but even Cutler was pounded by a pathetic offensive line cobbled together by Angelo as if he was dropping acid. I mean, get a load of this:
A guard is playing center, a center is playing guard, a guard is playing right tackle, a right tackle is playing left tackle, and the last guy is a backup for a left guard who’s paid like a left tackle and can’t last a full season anywhere because he’s always getting hurt because he came here hurt.
(I’ll pause here while you absorb that last sentence.)
The purpose of a general manager is to get players. Angelo got fired because, well …
Angelo foisted Devin Hester on everybody as a No. 1 receiver, but the truth is, neither Hester nor any member of the Bears wide receiving corps could make Green Bay’s top five. …
Years of ridiculous picks hurt the Bears when they could least afford it. Angelo brought in players who were either bad or pre-injured. He failed miserably in the most important part of his job: scouting the physical and mental talents of currency of the realm: players.
It took him 10 years to get one of his offensive draft choices to the Pro Bowl. He wasted draft picks along the offensive line. He never could figure out the quarterback position, finally trading first-round picks for Cutler, but when Angelo finally had to show what he knew about the most important position on the field, Caleb Hanie sabotaged the end of the last two seasons.
A comment contrasts the Bears’ approach, such as it is, with their rivals to the north on U.S. 41, calling out Bears president Ted Phillips:
Phillips is the key. He must go and get someone who will make EVERY decision based on only one criterion: what choice will most likely give the team the best chance of winning. Phillips has not done that over the years. … The Packers make EVERY decision based on what will help their team win. Over the years, that approach pays off. They are going for their 5th Superball championship. The Bears have a pathetic single championship in modern times, and are looking at a long climb to become competitive for another. GET a real football man in to replace PHILLIPS the bean counter.
(Is the “Superball” an event during Super Bowl Week?)
The comment contrasted the Bears’ and Packers’ stadium situations. The Packers renovated Lambeau Field while still playing there during the 2001–03 seasons. The Bears moved to the University of Illinois for one season, instead of picking one of three Chicago-area stadiums (Wrigley Field, Comiskey Park or Northwestern University’s Ryan Field) that would have worked for a season, and then replaced Soldier Field with an architectural disaster.
There are two ways to look at Smith, who said before the season that the 2011 Bears were the best team he’d ever had. The first, as Rosenbloom argues, is that the Bears’ next general manager won’t have the ability to hire his own coach. (The accusation is that the Bears are too cheap to fire Smith and eat the $10 million remaining on his contract.) The other, the Wolf/Ted Thompson model, would be that the new GM decides after watching Smith for a season whether to keep him or not.
Martz’s departure as the Bears’ offensive coordinator is ironic. Smith touted the Bears’ rushing for 2,000 yards this season, even though Martz’s “Greatest Show on Turf” offense is not known for rushing. Moreover, nine teams hit the 2,000-rushing-yard mark, but only four (Denver, Houston, New Orleans and San Francisco) made the playoffs. Ten teams hit the 4,000-passing-yard mark, and only three (San Diego, Dallas and Philadelphia) did not make the playoffs. And in the most important statistic, scoring offense, four of the 2,000-yard rushing teams finished in the top 10 in scoring, but only New Orleans and Houston made the playoffs; the Texans were the only team to throw for less than 4,000 yards, finish in the top 10 in scoring and make the playoffs. This is the long way of saying that rushing is not nearly as important as passing in the 21st century NFL. (And the Bears’ run game was good enough to get them to 30th in offensive yardage.
The Bears have been known for years for running the football and their defense. The 2011 Bears were 17th in yardage and 19th in scoring on defense. The two worst defenses in terms of yardage, Green Bay and New England, are the number one seeds in their conferences. (According to Tuesday Morning Quarterback, the Packers are the first team to finish last in defense and first in their conference.) Despite their basement position in yardage, the Packers and the Patriots were 14th and 18th, respectively, in scoring defense.
This suggests that the Bears’ approach is faulty in more than one way. They made the correct move in finding a capable (if buttheaded) quarterback, Cutler, but failed to build an offense around him. Nor do they have an offense designed to compete in the 21st century NFL. Of the Bears’ receivers, only Hester would even get a Packer practice squad spot, and only on the roster as a kick returner. Anyone who has watched a couple seasons of football knows that the most important position group is the offensive line, and the Bears’ offensive line’s only contribution to the passing game is trying to get its quarterbacks killed. The aforementioned 2,000 rushing yards didn’t get the Bears into the playoffs, did it?
Cutler’s injury torpedoed the Bears’ season. That’s the fault of the Bears for not finding an adequate replacement. In contrast, Packer backup quarterback Matt Flynn has played well in his two career starts and his relief appearance in the Packers’ loss to Detroit last season. There is no question that if something happened to Aaron Rodgers, the Packers’ coaches would have Flynn ready to go. The NFL’s quarterback factory is in Green Bay given the number of quarterbacks who came through Green Bay who ended up playing elsewhere, including Kurt Warner, Doug Pedersen, Ty Detmer, Mark Brunell, Aaron Brooks and Matt Hasselbeck.