No playoffs = no championship chances cost Smith his job

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No playoffs = no championship chances cost Smith his job

As the Bears spiraled downward from their 7-1 standing at midseason, so did the evaluation of their head coach. When the team failed to at least slip into the playoffs, one of the already played-out scenarios was executed and Lovie Smith fired on Monday morning.

Had the Bears made the playoffs and had some success there, Smith might have been fulfilling at least the last year of his contract. GM Phil Emery made it clear on Tuesday that no final call had been made on Smith before the final weekend of the season.

The evaluation process was made, Emery confirmed. I would say that that decision wasnt finalized until the morning and it really wasnt final until I sat down with coach Smith. Thats when the decision was finally made because to me, until you actually tell the person, and you look them in the eye and say, Were going to move in a different direction, that decision has not been made.

Bears President Ted Phillips laid out the same scenario: I cant point to a single moment in time where the decision was obviously final.

When the Bears missed the playoffs, it meant that they had finished out of the postseason for five of the last six. Had the Green Bay Packers beaten the Minnesota Vikings and allowed the Bears into the tournament, then Smiths case would have been that they had made the playoffs two of the last three years.

But Emery was adamant that the goal of the organization is and will be to win championships. To do that means making the playoffs to even have that chance.

As a professional sports team and as a historic charter member of the greatest sports league in this world, the NFL, our No. 1 goal has to be to win championships and to win championships we must be in contention on a consistent basis, Emery said. And to be in contention, we have to be in the playoffs on a consistent basis.

Five out of the last six years, we have not been there. We have fallen short.

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Emery cited the consistent excellence of the Chicago defense under Smith. But it was the consistent failures on offense that could no longer be tolerated.

We havent had the balance between our defensive excellence, Emery said. Weve had special-teams excellence. We have not had consistency on the offensive side of the ball. We have gone through a number of coordinators. We have searched for answers.

The end result is that we did not have enough consistency. That part and not getting to the playoffs on a consistent basis, being able to meet our organizational goals, to be in a consistent spot, to be in the hunt to win championships, I made the change moving forward.

On top of simply not making the 2012 playoffs was the disappointment that came with the slide from such high expectations at mid-season.

I think just for this years standpoint it was starting off 7-1, and with that expectation then that we were going to at least follow through and make the playoffs, Phillips said. That was probably the biggest disappointment with this season in particular.

Brandon Marshall doesn't remember 3 TD game from Bears-49ers in 2014 because he was on pain pills

Brandon Marshall doesn't remember 3 TD game from Bears-49ers in 2014 because he was on pain pills

Remember back in 2014 when the Bears rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the 49ers 28-20 in San Francisco on Sunday Night Football?

Well, Brandon Marshall doesn't.

And he had three of the four touchdown catches, two of them coming in the last quarter.

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The former Bears wide receiver, who had been dealing with a high ankle sprain, said he took pain pills before the game and doesn't recall much of it, including the incredible one-handed grab that went viral.

"I don't really remember much about that game because I worked really hard to get back from a high ankle (sprain)," Marshall said during a conference call Wednesday. "I'll say it, I took a couple pain pills that masked the pain. I really wasn't supposed to play. I came back from a high ankle (sprain) within 10 days. I was supposed to be out four to six weeks. I don't remember much from that game. I just remember catching those balls. And that was pretty much it."

If only Bears fans could forget that season entirely, which ended in a 5-11 record and the end of the Marc Trestman era.

Bears win over 49ers nets DE Akiem Hicks NFL defensive honor

Bears win over 49ers nets DE Akiem Hicks NFL defensive honor

It may have been just a distant similarity to players on an MLB cellar-dweller earning a Cy Young or MVP award (which happens in Chicago, a lot – Andre Dawson, Ernie Banks twice), but to the Bears it matters. Defensive end Akiem Hicks was named NFC defensive player of the week after his dominating performance in the Bears win last Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers, and he is not alone among Bears getting recognition after one of their few victories.

Never mind that the victory moved the Bears to 3-9 and came over a team losing its 11th straight game. What Hicks accomplished – two sacks, 10 tackles, a quarterback hit, a forced fumble – was being a force in the Bears’ domination of the 49ers and has been part of the emotional core of a team that has lost but not folded.

“It’s easy to say, ‘We’re not getting the results we want,’ but guys have invested,” Hicks said. “I’ve told guys, ‘just think about the hours you’ve invested, to get your body and mind ready for a 16-game season. Why would you put all that work in and then, when you don’t get the results you want, just quit?’"

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Jordan Howard is one of the nominees for the FedEx Air & Ground NFL player of the week. Howard, who posted his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the year, could be a double-winner: He also is among the nominees for Pepsi NFL rookie of the week, as is teammate Leonard Floyd (two sacks, safety, four tackles).

Voting on the latter two awards is still open.

Hicks’ play vs. San Francisco boosted him to a career-best six sacks, and he credited Bears coaches afterwards with giving him opportunities to rush the passer, not simply be utilized as a run-stopper. He has been everything and perhaps a little more than the Bears anticipated when they signed him this offseason to a two-year contract worth $10 million, with $5 million guaranteed.

“I think he's done well,” said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. “It's a credit to him, a credit to Jay [Rodgers, defensive line coach]. Akiem has kept improving throughout the season, and he's been one of the guys that have been there each and every week, playing a lot of plays for us, and he's been a steady bell cow for us in there.”