Farewell Lovey Smith.
Lovey Smith was not the perfect coach. He still had issues with getting clock management under control, and I wonder if at least 1 or 2 close games might have gone the Bears way if there was more time or an extra time out.
That said, I think Lovey is getting the bums rush. True, the offense has sucked, but for most of Lovey’s tenure, he had nothing to work with.
Bears offense under Lovey Smith (pictured)
The offensive line was a sieve. Until this year, there were no big play receivers. Matt Forte was good the last two years, but he was good because that was all there was. Other teams were content to let him run and contain him on an as needed basis.
Even when Jay Cutler arrived … Cutler is an above average quarterback, with moments of brilliance (and is already the greatest quarterback in Bears history). But he is very particular. If things around him aren’t going nearly 100% right, it is difficult for him to operate. The offensive line alone was sure that this wouldn’t happen.
Coaching is the coach’s job, but getting the personnel is not. With an aging defense and a tissue paper offensive line, disaster was waiting to happen. So the Bears missed the playoffs last year? Their stellar QB was injured for a large part of it. What about this year? The Bears nearly beat the Seahawks without Cutler in for the end, and played the Vikings close, again with a battered and bruised team (two teams that are becoming fashionable Super Bowl picks). Heck, I give credit for the coach for keeping things together. It was like being handed a broken Indy car, and after leading 250 laps of the Indy 500, the car breaks down, you are given a ’75 Ford Pinto to go the rest of the race and you barely lose the race … then blaming it on the driver.
Lovey Smith maybe lacked the charisma and firebrand attitude of a Mike Ditka, or maybe even a Jar Jar Binks … but as far as I am concerned, he demonstrated that he could take even mediocre teams to heights few predicted them to reach.
If the Bears management plays to their history, be prepared to see an untested offensive coordinator brought in (because hiring a rested Jon Gruden would be all too predictable/expensive) to handle a continually aging defense and and offensive line that couldn’t block out a half time show … leaving our QB and his one good wide receiver to contemplate their futures as tackling dummies for the rest of the NFL.
Also lost in the end of the school/Christmas rush … a very fond farewell to A.J. Pierzynski.
Champions need a character. With the Bulls, it was Dennis Rodman. With the White Sox, it was Ozzie Guillen, but to be fair, on the field they had A.J. Pierzynski. While offensively, he did not deliver as well as he had in Minnesota (though 2012 was a wasted great year for him). Pierzynski did many things that helped the team outside the stat column. He had swagger and poise. Despite being controversial and having a seat right in front of the home plate umpire for most of the game, he rarely got ejected, even when the umpires descended into batshittery that would send Hawk Harrelson into a caniption fit. Example (note that this was seen by the umpire as a retaliation for Pierzynski getting hit earlier, but Pierzynski knows to let the manager handle this battle):
So for all of the WWF antics during the off season, and antagonizing the opposition during the season, AJ was a pretty stand up guy, and a strong field general, which is the most important job of the catcher. In 2005, a lot of people forget that he was a critical spark plug in the ALDS, batting 0.444 with 2 home runs and 4 RBI against the defending World Series champion Red Sawx.
While with the Sox, he finished top five in catching assists five times, and top 5 for fielding percentage as a catcher 7 times. Three times he ranked in the top six in the league in at-bats/K, which is valuable for a position that is not known for hitting prowess.
It is safe to say that AJ was a fan favorite, and he will be missed.
I would post the video of AJ slapping home plate and the coward Michael Barrett sucker-punching him, but I cannot find the video anywhere.
His 10 post-season runs scored is the most of any Sox player in history, and he was the fifth catcher to log 1000 games behind the place for the Sox behind Billy Sullivan, Carlton Fisk, Sherm Lollar, and Ray Schalk. He was also the first Sox catcher in 24 years to win a Silver Slugger Award.