The end of a head coach's nine-year tenure disrupts deep loyalties, cracks comfort zones and quite frankly scares many of the people affected. That's why you're seeing at least some longtime Chicago Bears react emotionally to the firing of coach Lovie Smith.
Kick returner/receiver Devin Hester told reporters Monday that he isn't sure he wants to play for the Bears anymore and might retire. Linebacker Brian Urlacher, meanwhile, questioned "How could you do it to this guy?" during an interview on ESPN 1000 and reiterated that "I don't want to play for another head coach."
A few minutes later, however, Urlacher said, "I'm a Bear, and I want to be here." He added: "We're all mad right now. We just left our head coach right now. They fired him, and we're going to say things that we don't mean."
Hester claimed to have retirement papers in his pocket while speaking to reporters at Halas Hall. We noted earlier how unproductive his season was, both on offense and special teams, and that he is now 30 years old. But you have to assume Hester will cool down on the retirement issue.
He is arguably one of the best returners in the history of the NFL and has time left in his playing window to cement an unprecedented run to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It would be silly to allow Smith's firing to derail that ambition.
Consider another example of the fear of lost comfort zones. Former Bears safety Chris Harris had this reaction via Twitter: "That Chicago defense you've learned to love so much is about to take a serious hit. During Lovie's tenure they've led league in takeaways." Current Bears cornerback Charles Tillman retweeted the sentiment.
I don't doubt that Smith's defenses were excellent in this area. Indeed, they forced an NFL-high 310 takeaways in Smith's tenure. That’s 27 more than the next-highest team.
But as we discussed earlier, the Bears would be fair to respond: To what end? The job of a head coach is to get to the playoffs and contend for a championship. Smith's teams did that only once in the past six seasons.