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Bears GM: Playoff misses did in Smith

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Bears GM: Playoff misses did in Smith

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) The Chicago Bears had too many playoff misses and too many problems on offense. That's why general manager Phil Emery fired coach Lovie Smith.

The Bears let Smith go Monday even though they won 10 games.

Missing the playoffs for the fifth time in six years and the inability to fix the offense were simply too much to overlook, so they cut ties with their coach after a nine-year run that included three division titles, two NFC championship game appearances and a trip to the Super Bowl.

``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.''

He pointed out that while the Bears consistently boasted an effective defense under Smith with stars such as Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and later Julius Peppers, they never could get it right on offense. Smith had four offensive coordinators during his tenure. The Bears made big trades for quarterback Jay Cutler and receiver Brandon Marshall, but they continued to struggle through the years whether it was because of poor play-calling, poor execution or poor blocking.

Either way, the team is moving on. Emery had discussions with chairman George McCaskey and president Ted Phillips, but ultimately, the decision to change coaches was his.

Now, the search is on.

Emery said Tuesday he'll be interviewing potential replacements over the next two weeks and would like to have one in place by the college All-Star games later this month. A person familiar with the situation told the Associated Press they will interview Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy this week. Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan and Atlanta Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong are also expected to interview, according to reports.

Emery wouldn't rule out candidates with defensive backgrounds or college coaches. He was also asked if special teams coordinator Dave Toub is in the running.

``No one's been excluded,'' Emery said. ``We have some excellent coaches on our staff and I'm not excluding anybody.''

He also said he has no preference for a 4-3 or 3-4 defense, but added the personnel is geared for a 4-3.

The coaching search isn't the only big issue facing the Bears at the moment.

Urlacher has an expiring contract and could be gone after being limited by injuries this season. He was slowed by a knee issue and missed the final four games because of a hamstring problem. Emery was noncommittal about the eight-time Pro Bowl player's future.

Then, there's Cutler. Are the Bears convinced he is the long-term solution for them at quarterback?

He has one year left on his contract, and although Emery talked about building around him, he also said `` That answer is going to come as we move forward with a new head coach.

``Am I convinced that Jay has the talent to be that? Yes, I am.,'' Emery said. ``I'll say the same thing that I said this summer: I see Jay as a franchise quarterback. We've got to build around him. That's been the goal from the beginning, to build around Jay and to build our team toward championships.''

For now, Emery is focused on finding a coach.

He replaced the fired Jerry Angelo after last season with the mandate that he keep Smith for at least this year. With lofty expectations, the Bears won seven of their first eight games before everything crumbled. Yet, Emery insisted having to work with the coach for a year didn't set him back in executing his long-term plan.

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Redrafting the 2003 draft: Patrice Bergeron could have been a Penguin

Redrafting the 2003 draft: Patrice Bergeron could have been a Penguin

It takes years to determine who the best players in any given draft are. How would past NHL drafts look if they were redrafted today? Let's look back at the 2003 draft and see how it shaped today's NHL.

Here's a look at the first round of 2003 redrafted.

The draft was a total bust for Washington

In the real draft, the Caps took Eric Fehr 18th overall. He played in 652 NHL games. The remaining five players the team drafted combined for one single NHL game. Yikes.

Phaneuf to the Caps?

In the redraft, I had defenseman Dion Phaneuf going to Washington. Before you groan, let's not forget that he played in over 1,000 NHL games and, while he was with Calgary, he looked absolutely dominant. I don't think there are any questions that he struggled handling the pressure as captain of Toronto. Almost every stat takes a precipitous decline when you compare his Calgary numbers to when he was with the Maple Leafs. I don't think that would have been a problem in Washington as just one year after this draft, the Caps selected a guy by the name of Alex Ovechkin who took all the attention. If Phaneuf had been in a city where he could just play, he would have been a top-pair defenseman for most of his career.

This also would have affected the 2004 draft for Washington. The Caps had three first-round picks. They used one on Ovechkin then took Jeff Schultz and Mike Green late in the round. Do they go both defense at that point if they had taken Phaneuf the year before? I'm not so sure.

Would Bergeron have helped Pittsburgh?

Patrice Bergeron was the best player in the 2003 draft. He went with the 45th overall pick to the Boston Bruins. The Pittsburgh Penguins had the No.1 overall pick that year and selected goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. That is not a bad pick by any stretch, but with one of the best two-way forwards of all-time available to them, would Pittsburgh have been able to pass him up knowing how good he really was?

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The interesting thing about this is that if Pittsburgh had taken arguably the better player in Bergeron, it may have cost them in the long run. Fleury was the backstop of three Stanley Cup runs for the Penguins. OK, so he only played in two playoff games in 2016 and yielded the crease to Matt Murray, but he retook the No. 1 job in 2017 when again Pittsburgh won the Cup. Also, just two years after the 2003 draft, the Penguins ended up with a pretty decent two-way center by the name of Sidney Crosby. The idea of a team with both Crosby and Bergeron on it is daunting, but its two players of the same position and they would have still needed a goalie.

The Penguins may not have ended up with the better player overall, but they did get exactly the player they needed in Fleury.

Fleury to Columbus?

In the redraft, Fleury dops from first to fourth and is snagged by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Would Fleury have been able to get Columbus over the playoff hump sooner? That's a tough question to answer.

Goaltending has not been a major weakness for Columbus. Yes, he could have given the team a boost, but the roster was awful there for several years after the expansion draft. When the team did finally make the playoffs for the first time in 2009, it was off the back of an incredible rookie season from goalie Steve Mason. They also had a pretty good netminder in Sergei Bobrovsky from 2013 to 2019, or at least he was pretty good in the regular season.

Correction: regular season goaltending has not been a major weakness for Columbus. Actually, Bobrovsky was terrible in the playoffs for much of his career. Perhaps there is some validity to the argument that better netminding from Fleury -- who is a strong postseason performer -- could have potentially changed the trajectory of the franchise.

See the first round of 2003 redrafted here.

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Redskins Superlatives: Two tremendous leaders earn the Most Likely to Become President Award

Redskins Superlatives: Two tremendous leaders earn the Most Likely to Become President Award

This week, JP Finlay and Pete Hailey will be handing out Redskins Superlatives as they continue to preview the 2020 season.

Next up: They give their Most Likely to Become President Award to a fan favorite and the franchise's newest leader.

JP's pick: Terry McLaurin

There is nothing Terry McLaurin can't do and he's got my vote for president should he ever decide to run. Beyond the breakout rookie year, the precise route running and his blazing speed, McLaurin talks like a 10-year veteran.

This offseason has been hard for everyone, but McLaurin explained things better than most: "Football is what I love to do. I can’t think of a better blessing in my life to be playing the game that I love. When you get through the course of such a long NFL season and you get to the end, it’s like man, I’m ready for that break. That burning desire is still inside of you to continue to get better and continue to improve. Now with us having a new staff, we’re just all looking forward to being on the field again. I feel like sports is something that this country needs as well. The camaraderie of it, the togetherness that it brings."

Put McLaurin on the ballot — but ideally after a 15-year career with a whole lot of postseason success.

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Pete's pick: Ron Rivera

JP and I didn't go to school together — that's because he's a LOT OLDER than me — but if we did, it would've been a surprise if we ever got an A-plus on the same assignment. In fact, it would've been a huge surprise, and perhaps an impossibility.

But in this instance, we're both getting an A-plus. He nailed his pick, and I'm nailing mine. 

Ron Rivera hasn't been with the Redskins long, and due to this unusual offseason, the media hasn't gotten to hang around him much in person, aside from his introductory press conference in January and some time at the Combine. 

Even so, we have still talked to him plenty on Zoom, and in all of those instances, I've been floored by his leadership, his intelligence and his perspective on everything, both football-related topics and topics that relate more to life overall. 

RELATED: RIVERA ON NOT SIGNING CAM NEWTON

At this point, I'm pretty much convinced every company or group in the world would be better with Rivera involved. He's fair, he's level-headed and he simultaneously gives and commands respect. 

For now, Rivera's just in the running for an NFC East title, but if he ever sets his sights on running for office, he'll have one mediocre blogger on his side.

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