He is now the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and that team is on the 2014 Bears’ home schedule. But because of the remaining Tampa Bay schedule, Lovie Smith will be in a good position to do the Bears some favors.
Not necessarily the Bears themselves, although Smith is showing no hard feelings or ill will toward his old team.
“[His Bears years] flew by but it’s still vivid to me,” Smith told Mike Florio on “Pro Football Talk Live!” “When you’re a first-time head coach, you think you know, but you really don’t know until you get in that situation…
“I can hardly remember some of the things that happened during the time but you still remember a lot of the great people that you came in contact with, and I have lifetime friends that became part of my family there in Chicago.”
Smith’s Bucs will be coming to Soldier Field at some point next season; exactly when will have to wait for the schedule to come out in April.
Other than that game, Smith will be prime position to do the Bears some good.
The rest of the NFC North also is on Tampa Bay’s schedule. Green Bay and Minnesota play in Tampa; the Bucs travel to Chicago and Detroit. Smith’s difficulties with Green Bay were epic once Aaron Rodgers succeeded Brett Favre, who was consistently handled by the Smith Bears.
But he had his way with the Detroit Lions (13-5) but the last four years were against the coaching of Jim Schwartz, which is behind the under-achieving Matthew Stafford, Ndamukong Suh and the others. And he was 11-7 against Minnesota Vikings teams that were coached by Brad Childress and Leslie Frazier, who is now Smith’s defensive coordinator in Tampa.
Looking wider, at the NFC and possible wild-card threats for the Bears, Tampa Bay has six games against the NFC South, a division against which Smith’s schemes have fared well. The Bears were 4-1 against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints; 4-2 against Carolina, including wins in the last three meetings; and 2-2 against the Atlanta Falcons. Best guess is that the Carolina games will come with an edge: The Panthers are coached by Ron Rivera, sent packing by Smith after the 2006 Super Bowl season.