LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Hindsight is always 20/20.
Almost three full seasons have elapsed since the Chicago Bears fired Lovie Smith after he went 10-6 (but didn't make the playoffs) in 2012.
With Chicago set to face their old coach Sunday in Tampa, here are three reasons why the Bears made the correct decision to cut ties with Smith, and three reasons why the organization made a mistake jettisoning the popular coach.
1. Offensive coordinator abyss: Smith swung and missed on almost every offensive coordinator hire, except for Ron Turner, whom Chicago fired the year following the Jay Cutler trade. Terry Shea. Nope. Mike Martz. Nope. Mike Tice. Nope. None of those guys worked out. Current offensive coordinator Adam Gase, on the other hand, is future head coach material. A play caller of Gase’s caliber probably never shows up in Chicago with Smith responsible for filling out the staff.
2. Playoff drought: The Bears missed the postseason five of Smith’s last six seasons. That’s an eternity in the NFL. For all the good work Smith accomplished, he just failed to reach the playoffs enough to satisfy ownership. However, the Bears still haven’t made the playoffs since Smith was unceremoniously dumped. Go figure.
3. Bruce Arians: Arians -- the reigning NFL Coach of the Year -- was available after the 2012 season. The timing seemed perfect. Arians even wanted the job. Sadly, the Bears botched it. Arians is 33-14 in Arizona. That stings.
1. Win column: Smith went 84-66 over nine seasons (2004-12) in Chicago. He guided the Bears to three NFC North titles, and a berth in Super Bowl XLI. Since Smith left town, the Bears are 18-28. Ouch.
2. Defensive collapse: The Bears ranked fifth in total defense and third in points allowed in Smith’s last year. The next season, Chicago’s defense hit rock bottom: 30th in total defense and tied for 30th in points allowed. The Bears also surrendered the most rushing yards in the league. That unit has never truly recovered.
3. Culture: Smith ran a tight ship. The Bears enjoyed a positive culture and accountability for nine years. The locker room was policed by strong leaders, such as Brian Urlacher and Olin Kreutz, who kept almost everything in-house. Smith was universally respected by players and most staff until general manager Jerry Angelo got the boot and Phil Emery was brought in. Firing Smith, and subsequently replacing him with Marc Trestman, destroyed morale inside the building. The culture has slightly improved under John Fox, but Fox has a long way to go.