The NFL is very much a “what have you done for me lately?” business and Lovie Smith learned that the hard way. After a late season collapse that caused the Chicago Bears to finish 10-6 and miss the playoffs for the fifth time in the last six years, the Bears decided to fire head coach Lovie Smith. Even though Smith’s resume is strong and he was able to make a Super Bowl appearance, despite not having a competent quarterback that year, the Bears decided they could do better and it was time for a change. It’s a risky decision though. Smith was extremely successful, the defense he created was the backbone of the team and it’s hard to see Chicago finding a candidate better than Lovie Smith.
Charles Tillman joined WSCR in Chicago with Laurence Holmes to talk about how he felt when he heard the news that Lovie Smith was fired, what Lovie Smith’s message was to the team upon leaving, on the mindset of the team now that he is gone, what kind of style he expects the new coach to have, how he is going to handle the fact that there is a new coach and what he thinks of general manager Phil Emery.
How he felt when he heard the news that Lovie Smith was fired:
“First off I have nothing but the utmost respect for Coach Smith and I think he handled himself as a gentleman and he’s a class act. I’ve learned so much from Coach Smith. How to handle my business, what to say, how to say it, and he’s just a smart dude, smart brother who always handled himself the right way. Those are some of the things that I will take from him in this business. It’s hard to be professional some times when media, fans and whoever aren’t really on your side and they’re just going against you. I can say I got a lot of game from Coach Smith. He taught me that. How it affected me, you know I was shocked like everybody else when he got fired. I did my two cents of boohooing and crying and my heart bled for him because you went 10-6 and got fired but we know this business is crazy at times and I’m sure he knew at some point in time it had to come to an end. It’s unfortunate that it had to be now.”
What Lovie Smith’s message was to the team upon leaving:
“It was just really heartfelt. We went in the room and he just said ‘God has a plan and that plan isn’t for me to be your head coach next year.’ The first thing he said was ‘I want to thank you all for what you all have done for myself and my family’ which I thought was just class man. That’s going to be the word that I use about Coach Smith this whole interview. The man has class.”
On the mindset of the team now that Smith is gone:
“I’m sure a lot of guys who are under contract or who have thought about leaving or thinking about staying, now they might think about leaving. I’m sure a lot of that comes into their mind because there is a coach out there that is going to come in and he’s going to take this team in the direction that he feels fit to win a championship and certain guys might not fit in that scheme and they might potentially try to get out of deals and go different places to try to fit in with another coach. There’s a lot going on right now. With Coach Smith being let go, there are a lot of other guys who have to make decisions. Is it a good fit for me to stay now? I don’t know. It will be interesting to see how this offseason plays out once they decide to hire a new coach.”
What he expects from the new coach:
“Well I know for me it’s a cooling off point. I don’t think you make decisions when you are mad or angry. I’m not going to lie to you, when I first heard I was mad, I was angry, just like everyone is, but I think it’s just being a true professional. It’s part of our business, it’s part of our job. We have a new boss and you have to give him that respect. I’m sure when that new coach comes in he will look to some of the older players for some guidance and leadership in certain ways about certain players and things and I just have to lend my opinion to him and I think we will get off on the right foot. I don’t think you go into it holding a grudge against anybody. I think that’s how you start off on the wrong foot. You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
What he thinks of Bears GM Phil Emery:
“I think he’s good but I’ve never had one on one conversations every day and I didn’t have the relationship with him that I had with Coach Smith, but I get a good vibe from him. I don’t have anything negative to say. As a GM he’s a good GM and I saw some of his press conferences, I thought he was very transparent and open and provided a lot of feedback to you all the fans and the media about his decision making and how he has to make a decision and why he makes those decisions. He puts a lot of thought into his decisions and he had a very good explanation in to making the decisions and doing what he does.”