Lovie Smith fired, no longer Chicago Bears head coach - FOX 32 News Chicago

Lovie Smith fired after 9 seasons, Chicago Bears look forward

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Lovie Smith will no longer be the Chicago Bears head coach. Dubbed "a player's coach," his team had quite the emotional reaction to his firing. But the franchise must look ahead, considering Lovie's replacement.

They call it Black Monday in the NFL, and for good reason. Lovie Smith, one of seven head coaches, was fired Monday morning. The Bears announced that General Manager Phil Emery told Smith that he would not return for the 2013 season. Lovie's firing following an injury-riddled season that began well, but ended with the Bears missing a chance to compete in the playoffs.

Smith has been Chicago's head coach for nine seasons, led them to an 81-63 record, three division titles and two NFC Championship games since he was hired in 2004. He led the Bears to the Super Bowl in 2007, for the first time in over two decades. But the few playoff appearances and a six-game losing streak to the Packers contributed to the move.

Chicago beat the Detroit Lions 26 to 24 on Sunday, but also needed the Packers to beat the Vikings later that night to make the playoffs. That didn't happen, and Green Bay lost to Minnesota by three points.

Chicago was optimistic during the first half-of the season, with some even talking Super Bowl as the Bears reached a 7-1 record after Game 8. But numerous injuries to key players weakened the team's ability to score, and the Bears ended the season with at 10-6.

It is common for new general managers to bring in their own head coaches. Emery was told he had to keep Smith through 2012, NFL.com said he exercised his right to decide Smith's future with this move.

His defense consistently excelled, but he never got the offense rolling. Lovie hired four different offensive coordinators and failed with all four. He also went through a number of quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs trying to get the right formula for a consistent offense, to no avail.

But Lovie was a players coach. His players absolutely loved him because of the way he treated them - with class. Brian Urlacher was a staunch defender of Lovie's, said the Bears would be making a huge mistake if they made a coaching change.

After Monday's announcement, Urlacher wasn't the only player who was crushed emotionally by the Bears decision. Bears offensive lineman Roberto Garza and defensive end Corey Wootton were also sad to see him go, saying that he always believed in their long-term potential when it didn't always work in the beginning of their careers, and he continued to support them even when they excelled.

Devin Hester was so devestated about the news, he talked about retiring, saying, "I don't even know if I want to play again... I've got my workers' comp papers in my pocket... The media, the false fans, you all got what you all wanted."

But in the end, for all the good he did for this team, Lovie's efforts in the last couple years didn't cut it for the Chicago Bears. The search for a new head coach begins in a turbulent time, as eight NFL teams could be looking for new head coaches after Monday.

So now, who will the bears hire to replace Lovie? The big money guys are Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher and Andy Reid.

Don't dismiss the bears from pony-ing up to bring in one of those guys. The Bears head coaching job is a very good job. They have one of the NFL's best defenses and a talented quarterback.

Gruden went to two super bowls, led 30-year-old QB Rich Gannon and the Raiders to the Super Bowl - and won a Super Bowl title with Brad Johnson. Bill Cowher successfully coached the Steelers, but probably won't leave his TV job. Andy Reid was just fired in Philly and could be a very good option. Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is the hot asset out there. His Broncos have been great this season with Peyton Manning, but he also won last year with Tim Tebow.

GM Phil Emery is expected to speak on the Bears' decision at Halas Hall on Tuesday at 10 a.m.

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