The Lovie Smith firing: A downward spiraling timeline

The Lovie Smith firing: A downward spiraling timeline
December 31, 2012, 4:14 pm
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The 2012 season and its fall from 7-1 to out of the playoffs was the proximate cause of Lovie Smiths dismissal. Smiths tenure was marked with its share of highlights but also with some significant disappointments:
2004 5-11After negotiations break down to land Nick Saban, Smith is chosen over Russ Grimm to succeed Dick Jauron. He hires Terry Shea as offensive coordinator and inherits a dismal quarterback situation involving Chad Hutchinson, Craig Krenzel and Jonathan Quinn.In an ominous foreshadowing, 2003 No. 1 pick and anticipated starting quarterback Rex Grossman is injured and lost for the season a week after beating the Packers and Brett Favre in Green Bay. The Bears arguably never adequately solve their quarterback situation through Smiths tenure.
2005 11-5Smith replaces Shea with Ron Turner as offensive coordinator, who ran the Bears offense under Dave Wannstedt before leaving to coach Illinois in 1997. Grossman goes down with a broken ankle in preseason and Turner goes to fourth-round rookie Kyle Orton.Bears hit bottom at 1-3 after loss in Cleveland, then win eight straight with suffocating defense under Lance Briggs, Mike Brown, Tommie Harris, Charles Tillman and Brian Urlacher. Drafting Cedric Benson spurs Thomas Jones to 1,335-yard rushing season. Grossman returns from his leg injury late in the year but season ends with first-round home loss to Carolina.
2006 13-3Bears reach the playoffs for the second time in Smiths first three seasons. Defense again dominates and Grossman has seven games of 100-plus passer ratings, Benson and Jones each average 4.1 yards per carry and the Bears post their only 400-point season (427) under Smith. Breakdowns on offense and defense doom Bears against Indianapolis in the Super Bowl.Ron Rivera is let go as defensive coordinator after philosophical differences with Smith, and Bob Babich takes over as defensive coordinator.
2007 7-9Smith receives a contract extension for four years and 22 million that moves him into the upper (5 million-plus) tier for head-coach salaries.But the quarterback maelstrom returns. Grossman starts the first three games (1-2), Brian Griese starts the next six (3-3), Grossman the next four (1-3) and finally Orton for the final three (2-1).
2008 9-7Bears go to Houston and lose to 7-8 Texans to finish 9-7 when a victory would have allowed them to leapfrog 9-6-1 Philadelphia into the playoffs. In the aftermath, Kyle Orton and two No. 1 draft choices are traded to Denver for Jay Cutler.
2009 7-9Brian Urlacher is lost for the year with a wrist injury in the first half of the first game but the Bears still start 3-1 before a spiral of six losses in seven games dooms the season.The decision is made to keep Smith as head coach before a 31-7 crushing in Baltimore on Dec. 20. The decision stands after the Bears win their final two but Turner and most of the offensive staff are fired post-season after differences with Cutler widen. Mike Martz is hired as offensive coordinator after Bears lose out on several top college candidates because of scheduling and recruiting.
2010 11-5A game-16 loss to Green Bay will haunt Smith and the organization. With playoff position clinched, veterans are rested and the Packers slip past New York and Tampa Bay for the No. 6 seed. Bears get past 7-9 Seattle in the divisional round but Cutler suffers knee injury and is out for the second half. Green Bay goes to the Super Bowl after Bears mistakes on offense (B.J. Raji TD interception, failed third-down conversions) finishPerhaps most fateful: Caleb Hanie relieves Todd Collins and does enough for Mike Martz and the organization to move forward with him as Cutlers backup in 2011.
2011 8-8After Smith orders the offense to return to balance mindset with Mike Tices role again expanded, Bears reach 7-3 with a run of five straight wins. Cutler fractures his right thumb in game 10, Bears lose five straight and miss the postseason.Low points are reached with 3 points scored against the Kansas City Chiefs and in Denver when Marion Barber runs out of bounds to help the Broncos tie in regulation and then fumbles in overtime, leading to winning field goal.Jerry Angelo is fired as general manager, replaced by former Bears scout and Kansas City college scouting director Phil Emery.
2012 10-6Addressing the passing offense, Emery trades for Cutler favorite Brandon Marshall, OKs hiring Jeremy Bates as QB position coach and drafts Alshon Jeffery in the second round. Smith states during the NFL Scouting Combine that the offensive line, with promising rookie Gabe Carimi back from injury, and JMarcus Webb are sufficient at left tackle and that Kellen Davis is capable of top-shelf play at tight end. The offense is a disaster area.A 7-1 start evaporates in a succession of inept offensive performances. Defensive stumbles against San Francisco and Seattle against inexperienced quarterbacks raise eyebrows and red flags. Then the Bears cannot get past Minnesota and Green Bay in the final weeks.

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