Philadelphia Eagles coaching candidate profiles: Love Smith, Bears HC

Doug Pensinger

This is the latest in our series of profiles on prospective Eagles coaching candidates. For others, click here.

We are profiling all the likely candidates for the Eagles head coaching position in 2013. For the rest of the series, check out this hub.

Next up is Love Smith, former head coach, Chicago Bears.

Resume

1983-1986 Tulsa (linebackers coach)
1987 Wisconsin(linebackers coach)
1988-1991 Arizona State (linebackers coach)
1992 Kentucky (linebackers coach)
1993-1994 Tennessee (defensive backs coach)
1995 Ohio State (defensive backs coach)
1996-2000 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (linebackers coach)
2001-2003 St. Louis Rams(defensive coordinator)
2004-2012 Chicago Bears (head coach)

Why he could work

Smith has more head coaching experience than anyone the Eagles have or probably will speak to in the course of this search. He's spent the last 9 years as the head coach of the Bears, compiling an 81-63 record. He reached a Super Bowl in 2006 and an NFC Championship game in 2010.

As Geoff Mosher points out, Lovie's credentials as a defensive guru are impressive.

As a defensive coordinator or head coach, Smith’s teams have finished with a top-10 total defense five times and a top-10 scoring defense five times. The Bears led the NFL in scoring defense in 2005 when they allowed just 12.6 points per game.

His work with the Bears defense has been solid.

Bears defense under Lovie Smith
Year NFL rank (yardage) NFL rank (points)
2012 5 3
2011 17 14
2010 9 4
2009 17 21
2008 21 17
2007 28 16
2006 5 3
2005 2 1
2004 21 13
Average 14 10

He also teaches a brand of defense centered on creating turnovers. The Bears led the NFL in takeaways and defensive TDs in 2012.

Buddy Ryan once said he was "fired for winning." Lovie could probably make the same claim. His Bears finished 10-6 this year, but missed the playoffs due to a tiebreaker. He's also had some bad luck with injuries to his QB over the past 3 seasons. The Bears reached the NFC title game in 2010, but Cutler missed the 2nd half with an injury and they lost to the Packers. In 2011, the Bears got off to a 7-3 start, but after Jay Cutler went down they lost 5 straight to finish 8-8. This past season, Chicago started off 7-1 before Cutler got hurt against San Francisco. The Bears would lose that game and the game he missed the following week against the Texans. Had the Bears won either game they would have been in the playoffs.

In 9 seasons with the Bears, Lovie had 3 losing seasons, but after his first year he never won less than 7 games.

Why he may not the guy

So I made a table for Lovie's defenses in Chicago, it's only fair I do the same for his offenses...

Bears offense under Lovie Smith
Year NFL rank (yardage) NFL rank (points)
2012 28 16
2011 24 17
2010 30 21
2009 23 19
2008 26 14
2007 27 18
2006 15 2
2005 29 26
2004 32 32
Average 26 18

Offense has really been Lovie's bugaboo over his time in Chicago. The team could never find the right coordinator or the right QB. The list of guys he went to war with over the years has become quite the punch line. Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton, Brian Griese, Caleb Hanie and now of course Jay Cutler. Opinions are split on Cutler, but he's clearly the best of that group. Still, as I pointed out earlier, he has a knack for getting hurt at the wrong time. Of course, a lot of that can be attributed to the fact that Chicago's offensive line is terrible.

Question is, how much of that is on Lovie? He's never had Andy Reid's power, so he wasn't the guy picking these quarterbacks. That said, he obviously hasn't been getting the best out of them either (though he did make a Super Bowl with Rex Grossman).

The comparison with Reid is interesting, because in a lot of ways he could be seen as the defensive minded version of Andy. They both won a lot of games and generally were good coaches who had long stretches at their respective teams, but neither guy managed to get over the hump. Also, like Lovie never fixed the offensive side of the ball, Reid's downfall was his inability to fix the defense after the death of Jim Johnson.

Lovie never flamed out like Reid did these past couple seasons, however Reid made it to the playoffs twice as often as Lovie (9 in 14 seasons vs 3 in 9).

Final thoughts

One thing that shouldn't be overlooked is that players really like Lovie Smith and have always seemed to play hard for him. Devin Hester threatened retirement upon hearing the news of his firing. An overreaction for sure, but still indicative of how much players their liked their coach.

Brian Urlacher also expressed anger that Lovie was ousted.

How could you do it to this guy? I don't want to play for another head coach. We still won 10 games and had a chance to get in... Lovie is a great coach and I'm sure he'll get hired pretty quick. No one could do with this team what he's done the last nine years. I'm a Bear, and I want to be here. We're all mad right now.

In fact, our Bears blog wonders whether Urlacher, who is a free agent, won't follow Lovie to his next job next year?

When the Eagles were interviewing Mike Nolan, we talked about the recent history of head coaches who were fired from their first job but went on to success at their second. Bill Belichick, Tony Dungy, Tom Coughlin & Jon Gruden (to an extent) all fit that bill. Like Reid, it may be that Lovie needs a change of scenery.

Then again, maybe he's just an average head coach.

Personally, I like Lovie Smith and always have. He's clearly qualified and deserving of an interview by the Eagles. I don't think his hiring would be met with celebrations... but I do think it would be solid and generally Eagles fans would be satisfied.

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