Coaching seat warming for more than just Lovie Smith


Coaching seat warming for more than just Lovie Smith

Missing the playoffs four of the past five years has understandably put Bears head coach Lovie Smith on whatever kind of job hot seat the NFL has. Jerry Angelo took the fall for some of the missteps of the post-Super Bowl XLI issues but a new general manager and new chairman are not wedded to Smith.

And if two remaining contract years worth 11 million were reason to give Smith the 2012 season, one year wont be after this.

But Smith is far from the only NFC North coach around whom a serious degree of pressure is building.

The Green Bay Packers won a Super Bowl in 2010 but were a first-game playoff elimination last season. Mike McCarthy has a team that is established as Super Bowl-worthy and another stumble in 2012 will likely start questions about McCarthys stewardship.

Leslie Frazier took over a disaster in Minnesota but has now been given a starting quarterback, starting left tackle and help in the secondary in the past two draft first rounds. GM Rick Spielman may not be willing to consider trading unhappy wide receiver Percy Harvin but he will assuredly be considering options if the Vikings put up another 3-13 season.

But the most intriguing situation is over in Detroit. Jim Schwartz ostensibly has reversed the abysmal slide of the Lions. But he also has a roster with a No.1-overall pick at quarterback and two No. 2-overalls (Ndamukong Suh, Calvin Johnson) to go with a franchise-tagged defensive end (Cliff Avril).

The Lions likely do not qualify for the playoffs last season without Jay Cutler fracturing his thumb. And GM Martin Mayhew told Anwar Richardson over at that the Lions expect to win a Super Bowl eventually.

Mayhew says he is a believer in continuity, speaking of players, coaches and organization, but the Lions have not won a playoff game since Mayhew came in 2009 and anything less than at least a playoff win this season can be considered nothing less than a huge step backwards with a team virtually in its prime.

The Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls could see the mountain top with Doug Collins as head coach. But when they couldnt get to that level, a change was made to Phil Jackson from a pretty successful coach.

If Schwartz cannot end the enabling of character discipline issues that have made the Lions an object of ridicule, he may be called to accountability for underachieving talent sooner rather than later.

Unfinished Bears job a 'bitter pill' for John Fox, but the legacy lies beyond just the W-L record


Unfinished Bears job a 'bitter pill' for John Fox, but the legacy lies beyond just the W-L record

When John Fox succeeded Marc Trestman in 2015, neither he nor the Bears were looking at the situation and Fox as any sort of “bridge” hire – a de facto interim coach tasked with winning, but just as importantly, developing and getting a team turned around and headed in a right direction.

The heart of the matter is always winning, but in the overall, the mission statement also includes leaving the place better than you found it. Fox did that, which is very clearly the sentiment upstairs at Halas Hall as the Bears move on from Fox to Matt Nagy.

“It would’ve been nice to see it through,” Fox said to NBC Sports Chicago. “That’s kind of a bitter pill but you sort things out and move forward.

“I do think it’s closer than people think. We inherited a mess... but I felt we were on the brink at the end. I think that [Halas Hall] building is definitely different; they feel it. I do think that it was a positive.”

(Fox is probably not done coaching at some point, but that’s for another time, another story, and anyway, it’s his tale to tell when he feels like it. Or doesn’t.)

One measure of the Bears change effected: Virtually the entire Trestman staff, with the exceptions of receivers coach Mike Groh and linebackers coach Clint Hurtt, was jettisoned along with Trestman. By contrast, Nagy has retained not only virtually the entire Fox defensive staff under coordinator Vic Fangio, but also arguably the single most important non-coordinator offensive coach by virtue of position responsibility – Dave Ragone, the hands-on mentor of quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

Obvious but extremely difficult decisions are coming, as to shedding personnel and contracts – Josh Sitton, Pernell McPhee, Willie Young being among the most difficult because of tangible intangibles that no organization wants to lose.

“Bridge” results

Fox was never intended as a bridge coach but the results point to that function having been served. To exactly what end remains to play out under Nagy and the quarterback whom Ragone and Fox’s handling began developing.

Rick Renteria was one of those “bridge” guys for the Cubs, intended to be part of pulling out of or at least arresting the slide into the Mike Quade-Dale Sveum abyss, and leaving something for Joe Maddon. The late Vince Lombardi effectively served as that, at age 56 and for an unforeseen one-year for a Washington Redskins organization that’d gone 13 years without a winning season before Lombardi’s 1969 and needed a radical reversal. The culture change was realized over the next decade under George Allen and Jack Pardee, much of the success coming with the same players with whom Washington had languished before the culture change.

The Bears were in that state after the two years of Trestman and the three years of GM Phil Emery, certain of whose character-lite veteran player acquisitions (Martellus Bennett, Brandon Marshall) and high-character launchings (Brian Urlacher) had left a palpable pall over Halas Hall. A Fox goal was to eradicate that, which insiders in Lake Forest say privately was accomplished even amid the catastrophic crush of three straight seasons of 10 or more losses, and with injuries at historic levels.

What happens next is in the hands of Nagy and GM Ryan Pace, after a third John Fox franchise turnaround failed to materialize. Or did it? Because much of the core, from Trubisky through the defensive makeover, came on Fox’s watch, like him or not.

“You wish some things would’ve happened differently obviously,” Fox said, “but there was a lot positive that happened.”

Blackhawks ban four ejected fans from future home games

Blackhawks ban four ejected fans from future home games

The Blackhawks have banned the four fans — who were ejected from Saturday's game against the Washington Capitals for their racist remarks towards Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly — from future home games.

On Monday, a Blackhawks spokesperson released this statement:

We have contacted the select individuals involved in the incident on Saturday to notify them that they are no longer welcome at our home games. Racist comments and other inappropriate behavior are not tolerated by the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks also wanted to remind fans that they can alert security at the United Center by texting the following to 69050: UCASSIST <SPACE> followed by the seating section, row and a brief description of the issue.