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.