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 announce training camp schedule

Bears announce training camp schedule

The Bears released their official training camp schedule Thursday morning. After reporting to Olivet Nazarene on Wednesday, July 26, the first of ten practices open to the public will take place the following day. The Bears will be based out of Bourbonnais for the 16th straight season. Training camp will go through Sunday, Aug. 13 before the Bears break camp and finish the preseason in Lake Forest. 

All practices are tentatively scheduled to start at various times during the 11 a.m. hour with the exception of Saturday, Aug. 13, which starts at 12:05 p.m. Those times are subject to change based on weather, and a varying set of schedules that John Fox and his coaching staff have set up, as they adjust to player and training staff preferences in hopes of reducing injuries. 

Also, new this season, fans wanting to attend practices must order free tickets in advance through the Bears website. Fans will not be allowed in without a ticket, and the first 1,000 fans each day will be given various souvenirs. The practice campus will be open to the public with tickets from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Here is the full training camp schedule:

After historically low turnover total in 2016, what can Bears do to get more takeaways?

After historically low turnover total in 2016, what can Bears do to get more takeaways?

Quintin Demps set a career high in interceptions last year by not doing anything different. And that’s the message he’s sending a defense that generated only 11 takeaways in 2016, tied for the lowest single-season total in NFL history. 

Demps went from picking off four passes in both 2013 with the Kansas City Chiefs and 2014 with the New York Giants to notching just one interception with the Houston Texans in 2015. In 2016, though, Demps intercepted six passes, broke up nine more and totaled 38 tackles. 

“Turnovers are like, it’s not something that you go get, it’s something you let come to you by doing your job first and then helping out,” Demps said. “And then you’d be surprised how they come to you by doing your job and being aware of when you can help somebody out. A lot of times when you get help is when you get picks and turnovers.”

The danger for a defense coming off a historically bad takeaway is sort of a whiplash effect, where there’s an over-emphasis on creating turnovers and not enough attention paid to, as Demps said, “doing your job.” There’s a fine line between being opportunistic and undisciplined.

“I tell my safeties all the time, we gotta tackle first,” Demps said. “Tackle first, don’t miss any tackles and then the picks are going to come. I promise you that.”

The Bears felt positively after signs of being more opportunistic as a defense during shorts-and-helmets practices in May and June, though if that was because of any real improvements or because the defense is usually ahead of the offense is hard to tell at this stage of the year. 

The offseason program was valuable for the Bears’ secondary in growing trust within a group that had — no pun intended — plenty of turnover after the 2016 season. The hope is that the offseason additions of Demps, Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper and Eddie Jackson will solidify the secondary and lead to something better than last year’s historically-low turnover total. 

“We’re still trying to build something, but the actual, real building happens in training camp because I think then you start to see the group start to get formed and yo know who’s going to go with the one’s, who’s going to go with the two’s, stuff like that,” Amukamara said. “So I think that starts to get formed. But I think with a lot of guys now, I think what that creates is competition and guys trying their hardest to make the team.”