LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The Chicago Bears fired coach Lovie Smith on Monday after the team missed the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons.
Smith was informed of the decision by general manager Phil Emery on the day after the Bears beat Detroit to finish 10-6 but still didn’t make the playoffs.
Smith led the Bears to a Super Bowl, but also saw his team collapse in the second half of the past two seasons. Hired in 2004, Smith led the Bears to three division titles, two NFC title games and a 2007 Super Bowl appearance in his nine seasons. His record is 81-63, and he leaves with one year left on his contract.
The Bears scheduled a news conference Tuesday to discuss the move.
Even though Chicago closed with a win, the Bears needed a loss by Minnesota to get into the playoffs. The Vikings, though, beat Green Bay to clinch a postseason spot, leaving Chicago as the second team since the postseason expanded to 12 teams to miss out after a 7-1 start. The other was Washington in 1996.
Smith’s record ranks third on the Bears’ all-time list, behind George Halas and Mike Ditka.
The highlight of his tenure was the run to the title game that ended with a loss to the Indianapolis Colts. It was the first time two black coaches met for the championship, with Smith going against his mentor Tony Dungy.
The Bears made the playoffs just three times and posted three postseason victories under Smith. The 2010 team beat Seattle after the Seahawks won their division with a 7-9 record, but the Bears lost to Green Bay in the NFC title game at Soldier Field.
There was speculation Smith would be let go following the 2011 team’s collapse, but he got one more year while general manager Jerry Angelo was fired.
Ultimately, the struggles on offense did him in.
Known for solid defenses, Smith oversaw a unit that was consistently effective and at times ranked among the league’s best with stars such as Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and later Julius Peppers. Smith emphasized taking the ball away from the opposition, and no team did it more than the Bears with 310 during his tenure.
But on the other side, it was a different story.
Smith went through four offensive coordinators in Terry Shea, Ron Turner, Mike Martz and Mike Tice. He never could find the right formula, even as the Bears acquired stars such as quarterback Jay Cutler and receiver Brandon Marshall over the years.
The offensive line has struggled in a big way over the past few seasons after age took its toll on a group that was a strength during the 2005 and 2006 playoff seasons. The Bears were never able to replenish, spending first-round picks on Chris Williams (2008) and Gabe Carimi (2011) that did not pan out.
Williams had his contract terminated in October, ending a disappointing run, and Carimi struggled this season after missing most of his rookie year with a knee injury.