During a visit with Mike Florio over at ProFootballTalk’s “PFT Live!” on Friday morning, Mike raised a specter that may not come to pass. But then again… .
Mike mused that if Lovie Smith turns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into something dangerous this year, and the Bears somehow are edged out of the playoffs, particularly by the Bucs, then the heat under Bears GM Phil Emery may start causing some beads of perspiration around Halas Hall.
It’s unlikely that some Smith success in Tampa will reflect badly on Emery. Besides, Smith landed Josh McCown as his quarterback and that alone portends improvement.
Smith had missed the playoffs five of his final six seasons, and any rawness or second-guessing of Emery will be moderated by time anyway; more than a full season and most of two offseasons have passed since Smith’s exit.
But while few GM’s have accomplished the degree of makeover on both sides of the ball (plus coaching staff) that Emery has over the past two seasons, Mike raises a legitimate point. Smith might have been fired even if the 10-6 Bears had made the 2012 playoffs if only because Smith still had not been able to settle the offense.
Emery himself made failure to get in position to make championship runs — i.e., make the playoffs — a factor in Smith’s dismissal.
Another playoff miss would begin turning that prism on Emery, since it would make the Bears the only NFC North team to miss the playoffs in each of the past four seasons (three under Emery).
Missing the 2014 postseason seems incomprehensible, at least to this observer. But this time a year ago, that was also the assessment, coming off a top-five defensive ranking and coming into a new offensive regime for Jay Cutler.
And Mike and I considered one other point: If the Bears don’t win the NFC North, can they push into the playoffs as a wild card?
The problem there is that the last four Bears playoff appearances (2010, 2006, 2005, 2001) came only via winning the division. Detroit and Minnesota have hired new coaches, and the Bears are head-to-head against the two 2013 wild cards: New Orleans and San Francisco.