While it seems every two years the knee-jerks back home start wringing their hands over Lovie Smith's future, it also is apparent that whenever Smith's future with the team is "on the line," the Bears step up. What gives? Do the players in the locker room love him that much? And what's it going to take for Chicago to start to love him just as much? -- Jim Sacco, Abingdon, Va. (By way of Chicago's Taylor Street)
One of the trademarks of Lovie Smith the head coach is his teams don't stay down long. Another trademark is they really don't bottom out as much as they dip slightly. It took him one year to establish his program, and since that time the Bears have been below .500 only twice. They were 7-9 in 2007 and 7-9 in 2009. His overall record is 78-58. And he has achieved this without ever having a quarterback make the Pro Bowl. Like every head coach, he has strengths and weaknesses. But he runs a pretty good, pretty consistent program. I'm not sure what it will take for the fans to love him as much as his players do, but I think a Super Bowl victory would do wonders for his popularity.
With talk of Lance Briggs being a potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate, it dawned on me how difficult it is to be recognized today as a 4-3 outside linebacker and how Lance's accomplishments are all the more astonishing. When you look at the All-Pro and Pro Bowl rosters, almost all of the OLBs are pass rushers from a 3-4 scheme. I'm also afraid that not being a pass rusher will hurt Lance's Hall of Fame chances when he retires. To me, he's taken the baton from Derrick Brooks and has been without question the best at his position of his era in the most prevalent scheme in the NFL. Since you're a HOF voter, Dan, what are your thoughts? -- Tod, Pontiac
You make some good points. It is difficult for an outside linebacker who does not rush the passer to achieve a lot of honors. One of Briggs' predecessors at outside linebacker in Chicago, Joe Fortunato, hasn't gotten any hall of fame traction despite playing in five Pro Bowls. There are a lot of really good outside linebackers who can't get a hall of fame sniff. Many of them have similar credentials to Briggs. Check out some of these linebackers who are not in the hall: Maxie Baughan (nine Pro Bowls), Randy Gradishar (seven Pro Bowls), Andy Russell (seven Pro Bowls), Karl Mecklenburg (six Pro Bowls), Chuck Howley (six Pro Bowls), Matt Blair (six Pro Bowls), Isiah Robertson (six Pro Bowls). Briggs has played in seven Pro Bowls. If he can play in a few more and get some Super Bowl jewelry, he could make a very strong hall of fame argument for himself.
The only thing that has bugged me about this season so far has been the constant reshuffling at the bottom of the roster and on the practice squad. Is this really necessary? I'm pretty sure that the fourth tight end and the sixth cornerback are not going to make the difference in winning any games for us no matter who they are. The main reason this irritates me is that these guys are only here for a few weeks and then discarded for some other guys who we know nothing about. How about trying to develop the same practice squad for the entire year? Doesn't continuity count for anything in football today? Can't we show a little more courtesy and kindness to these fringe NFL players? -- Victor Seastrom, Lincoln
There are a couple of reasons for the reshuffling, Victor. The first is general manager Phil Emery wants to make sure he has the best 53 players who are available. If a player becomes available he thinks is better than a player on the roster, it makes sense to make a move. Or if a player who is on the bottom of the roster is disappointing with his performance in games or practice, or with his behavior, it makes sense to look for a replacement. The other reason is injury replacements. When it looked like Sherrick McManis was going to miss the game against the Lions with an injury, the Bears went out and found another player, Zack Bowman, who could do what McManis does. But the Bears had to cut another player, who turned out to be Chris Williams, to make room for Bowman. If the Bears have a young player they believe is worthy of developing, trust me he will not be let go. If it is courtesy and kindness you are looking for, I would not suggest following the NFL.
Do you cheer for the Bears? Like do you actually want them to win or do you just worry about writing about what happens? -- John, Dublin, Ireland
As a journalist, I am paid to be objective and that means I cannot cheer for a team I cover. But I can cheer for a good story. And the Bears are that this year.