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.

Bears' Josh Sitton finds fourth Pro Bowl most meaningful yet

Bears' Josh Sitton finds fourth Pro Bowl most meaningful yet

Sometimes the passage of time makes things a little sweeter.
 
Josh Sitton had been selected to three Pro Bowls while a member of the Green Bay Packers. At the end of training camp last year, the Packers abruptly released Sitton.
 
On Monday, Sitton was named to his fourth Pro Bowl, replacing former Green Bay teammate T.J. Lang. At age 30, this Pro Bowl was special.
 
"It's a great honor, always a goal of mine every year," Sitton said via conference call. "It's an honor to me and to the guys I play with, the guys helping me along...
 
"I would say just the age thing, the older you get, the more you appreciate them. You can't play at a high level in this game so the whole age thing makes it even more special."

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
 
When the Bears were forced to go into Week 1 of the 2015 season with a shuffled offensive line, the situation wasn't ideal; Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long moving to right tackle as a hurried fill when neither Charles Leno nor Jordan Mills were an answer.
 
The 2016 season also began with an unexpected and significant shuffle, but this time with one that immediately bumped up the quality of the line. GM Ryan Pace moved quickly to sign Sitton after his release by the Green Bay Packers, a step that bumped rookie Cody Whitehair from guard to center, where he earned All-Rookie honors from the Pro Football Writers Association of America.
 
"It was challenging for sure," Sitton said. "It was something I haven't had to do for quite some time but it was stimulating being thrown in and needing to learn the offense in four or five days."
 
Sitton, who signed a three-year contract worth as much as $21 million with $10 million guaranteed, joins rookie running back Jordan Howard as the two Bears scheduled to play in the Pro Bowl. He started 12 of 13 games in 2016, missing time with an ankle injury but being a strong presence in a line that ranked No. 8 in sack percentage while getting Howard to a franchise-record 1,313 rushing yards even with a rookie center and a group that never played a game together before Week 1 in Houston against the Texans.
 
"I think we can only get better, now that we'll have an offseason together," Sitton said. "We'll see what we can do."

Bears guard Josh Sitton named as injury replacement in Pro Bowl

Bears guard Josh Sitton named as injury replacement in Pro Bowl

The Bears have another Pro Bowler.

After initially getting shut out on the Pro Bowl roster, the Bears have since had two players named as injury replacements with guard Josh Sitton now joining running back Jordan Howard.

Sitton was named as an injury replacement Monday afternoon for Packers guard T.J. Lang, who left Sunday's NFC Championship game early.

This will be Sitton's third straight Pro Bowl and fourth career honor.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

The 30-year-old offensive lineman signed with the Bears before 2016 after the Packers released him.

Sitton played in 13 of the Bears' 16 games including 12 starts, helping to anchor the Bears' line when healthy.

Howard replaced Cardinals running back David Johnson on the NFC Pro Bowl roster earlier this month.