Do you feel the Chicago Bears should replace the entire coaching staff after Monday night's terrible performance?
— Jonathan Dyer, San Francisco
Lot of questions this week along those lines. I will say this. If Lovie Smith were fighting for his job, the loss to San Francisco was the kind of game that could get a coach fired. But firing Smith is not a legitimate topic because the Bears are 7-3. It’s tempting for all of us to overreact every week to whatever happens in the NFL. You have to look at the big picture, which is that the Bears still are well positioned to win 10 or 11 games and make the playoffs. And they will be even if they lose Sunday to the Vikings. If I said Smith should be fired after the Bears’ loss to the 49ers, I would have had to say he should have had his contract extended after they rolled over the Titans. Using this logic, you would say the 49ers should have fired Jim Harbaugh after his team lost 26-3 to the Giants. And he never would have been around to stick it to the Bears. Good coaches can have bad games. Good teams can have bad games. It even happened to the 1985 Bears, one of the greatest teams ever. The Dolphins took it to them 38-24. But bad games are not an issue unless there is a string of them.
If the Bears don't end up making the playoffs this year, do you see Lovie Smith's job being in jeopardy?
— Daniel Gutstein, Lincolnwood
For the Bears not to make the playoffs, they probably would have to lose four of their remaining six games. They might have to lose five of six. That would be a significant collapse. And, assuming there weren’t extenuating circumstances that led to the collapse, I think that kind of late-season failure could put Smith’s job in jeopardy.
If they fired Lovie, who is better that they could bring in? Jeff Fisher/Bill Cowher resumes are about exactly where Lovie is.
— @Qstache, from Twitter
Good point. Fisher and Cowher are regarded as potential franchise saviors. If the Bears fired Smith, he wouldn’t be likely be held in very high regard in other NFL cities. The big names who have had NFL success that are going to be pursued in the offseason are Cowher, Jon Gruden, Mike Holmgren and Andy Reid, assuming he is fired by the Eagles. Smith’s winning percentage as a head coach is .565. Cowher’s is .623. Gruden’s is .540. Holmgren’s is .592. Reid’s is .594. Smith is the only one of the five who never has had a Pro Bowl quarterback.
When was the last time the Bears had what would be called a "signature" win? It seems more times than not when the Bears are on national TV (Sunday or Monday nights) their performance is not one to remember. And what, if anything, does this say about Lovie Smith as a head coach?
— Thomas Borich, Superior, Wis.
To find the kind of win you are talking about, you probably have to go back to the third game of the 2010 season (not including their playoff victory against the Seahawks). The Packers, who would be eventual Super Bowl champions, were 2-0 and coming off an 11-5 season, and the Bears beat them 20-17 with two fourth quarter Robbie Gould field goals at Soldier Field. Since that time, they have had five chances at “signature wins.” Later in the 2010 season, the Bears had a chance to beat the Super Bowl-bound Patriots but fell 36-7 at Soldier Field. They had a chance to beat the 4-0 Lions last year in Detroit but failed to do so. Defeating the Packers, Texans or 49ers this season would have qualified as “signature wins, but the Bears lost all three. I’m not sure what all of this says about Smith, other than he was coaching teams on those days that couldn’t beat their opponents.
Given Jonathan Scott was in quite a bit in jumbo formations Monday, any chance he unseats struggling Gabe Carimi at RT?
— Ryan, Fort Wayne, Ind.
I’ll be surprised if Scott isn’t at least on the field at right tackle for a couple of series Sunday. And I won’t be surprised if he is in the starting lineup. The Bears don’t want to give up on Carimi. He essentially is a rookie from an experience standpoint, and he is a talented player. I’ve had personnel men on other teams express surprise to me that Carimi has struggled. There still is hope for him. But it’s not working now, and Smith and Mike Tice do not want Carimi to be the reason the Bears don’t achieve their potential.
What is the rule for holding? I can't get over how Bears offensive linemen can't stop anyone for even a second, and other teams' quarterbacks have what it seems like all day to throw. I watch other games and their offensive linemen have both hands grabbing the jersey of the defensive linemen. Isn't that holding?
— Ron Koji, La Crosse, Wis.
Section 1, Article 3 of The 2012 Official Rules and Casebook of the National Football League says it is holding if a blocker “use[s] his hands or arms to materially restrict an opponent or alter the defender’s path or angle of pursuit. Material restrictions include but are not limited to: I. grabbing or tackling an opponent; II. Hooking, jerking, twisting or tuning him; or; III. Pulling him to the ground.” Officials usually allow blockers to get away with a subtle jersey grab as long as the blocker gets the front of the jersey in between the shoulder pads and the grab doesn’t give him too big of an advantage.
During Monday's game, Jon Gruden mentioned how many of the Bears' O-linemen were playing unfamiliar positions: J'Marcus Webb entered the league as a RT, Chilo Rachal only played on the right side prior to this season, Roberto Garza spent most of his career at RG, and Gabe Carimi played his entire college career at LT. But that doesn't begin to cover the position changes forced on players by this coaching staff. Lance Louis, the only O-lineman currently playing his natural position, lost a year of development last season playing RT. Chris Spencer, who started for several years at center and was signed the day Olin Kreutz left, has only played guard for the Bears. Danieal Manning, now playing very well for Houston, was switched from safety to corner to safety to nickleback and finally back to safety before being let go as a free agent because he hadn't developed the way the coaches thought he should. And these guys are still at it: no one outside Halas Hall believes Shea McClellan's best position is as a 4-3 DE, while Evan Rodriguez was touted on draft day as a pass-catching TE and is now a FB. Is it fair to say they have flat-out failed when it comes to changing players' positions? Are the players starting to lose faith that the coaches can put them in a position to be successful?
— Mark Early, Arlington, Va.
I think you have to look at each case individually Mark. If a guard can’t switch from the left side to the right, how good is he? If you think Gabe Carimi has struggled at right tackle, you don’t want to see how he would be blocking on the left side. Roberto Garza has played no worse at center than he did at guard. Lance Louis played right tackle out of necessity last year. I think both rookies, McClellan and Rodriguez, have looked pretty promising at their positions. The one guy who was really hurt by position switching, in my opinion, was Danieal Manning.
With Alshon Jeffery out another 2-4 weeks, how can we get that Jay and Earl Bennett connection back?
— @Geensey, from Twitter
I think there has to be a concerted effort to get Bennett more involved, which there has not been. That effort has to come from three sources: the game plan, the play calls and the quarterback’s reads. Bennett is not going to catch six or seven passes by accident. He’s been a forgotten man, and the Bears offense is worse because of it.
How will Jay Cutler's concussion history affect a new deal with the Bears or the possibility of the Bears targeting a QB in the draft?
— @URlyle, from Twitter
I think Cutler’s concussion history is something the Bears have to take into account regarding a contract extension because it could impact his long-term ability to play the game. I’m not saying it will, because I don’t have access to his medical records. But the more concussions he suffers, the less valuable he becomes. A quarterback who is a durability risk is worth less. And a quarterback who could have his career shortened is worth less still.
Putting all other issues aside, how much does it cost taxpayers each time the playing surface needs repairs or replacement? If we multiply that figure by the number of repairs needed over the years, the sum will no doubt be staggering. If the Bears are opposed to an artificial grass playing surface, they should pay for the constant repairs and maintenance. The current arrangement is ridiculous.
— Bill Zolla
It costs $250,000 to completely resod Soldier Field. It is in the Bears’ contract with the city that the Bears do not pay for resoddings. That’s one of the reasons the city would be in favor of replacing natural grass with an infill surface. The Bears, however, have been resistant to a change. They believe natural grass better protects their most natural resources — their players.