AL HAMNIK: Bears fans have reason to party even harder now

2012-12-31T17:15:00Z 2013-05-22T18:05:06Z AL HAMNIK: Bears fans have reason to party even harder nowAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
December 31, 2012 5:15 pm  • 

Happy New Year. We got our wish.

DING, DONG, the witch is dead. Which ol' witch, the wicked witch. DING, DONG, the wicked witch is dead.

Monday's firing of coach Lovie Smith after nine so-so seasons elicited the same joyful response from Bears' nation as in the movie classic "The Wizard of Oz."

Lovie wasn't a villain or tyrant. The Texas native is a clean-living, God-fearing family man. But in the NFL, where thugs and hoodlums are given countless chances to play and make their fortunes, coaches are held to a much different standard.

Win, baby, or get the ax.

Lovie Smith had worn out his welcome with the Bears, whose new general manager Phil Emery is all about winning championships and a building bright future for the franchise.

It had become obvious Smith could do neither.

A defensive-minded coach, Smith's teams were never ranked higher than 15th offensively during his tenure.

If it weren't for all the defensive takeaways, the interceptions and fumbles returned for touchdowns, the offense this season would've been nonexistent.

Smith's failures didn't end there.

He had a 19-41 record against winning teams.

He had lost six straight games to that hated "team up north," the Packers, which is like being a sheep farmer in Beverly Hills. Oh, so embarrassing.

The Bears started 7-1 and everyone was checking airfare to New Orleans. But they finished 3-5 and it was Goodbye, Bourbon Street.

Since 1991, 36 of the 37 NFL teams that started 7-1 had made the playoffs.

Make that 36 of 38 now.

Lovie Smith won only three playoff games in nine years and his teams missed the postseason five of the last six. That all but kicked the door open for his dismissal.

We knew something was up late Sunday when the Bears issued their weekly press release and it read: "Player availability for Monday, December 31, will begin at 11 a.m. CT."

But nowhere was Lovie Smith's weekly noon press conference mentioned. Uh-oh.

Suddenly, his 81-63 record, three division titles and a 2007 Super Bowl appearance didn't matter.

The team was stuck in a rut and not moving forward.

You can expect Bears' players to speak out on Smith's behalf, like Devin Hester saying Monday that fans and media got their wish and ran Coach out of town.

Hester even implied he might retire, which wouldn't be a great loss considering how he stunk it up this season, can't play wide receiver, and no longer is feared as a kick returner.

Moody quarterback Jay Cutler said Lovie Smith had earned even his respect, after tweeting: "Change isn't always the best thing. Sometimes it can be good."

In this case, most will agree it was sorely needed.

Phil Emery has a news conference this morning. There will be more questions than Jeopardy.

Who else goes? Who stays? Does the system change? What about the upcoming draft? That dreadful offensive line? Brian Urlacher and your aging defense? The need for a tight end who can catch the ball?

Emery's answers should be very interesting.

DING, DONG. DING, DONG.

This time it's the doorbell with news we've all been waiting for. Happy New Year, indeed.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.

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