Lovie Smith was at the helm for some of the best Bears seasons in recent memory. Chicago has appeared in three Super Bowls, in 1963, 1985, and that special 2006 season with Smith on the sidelines.
Smith returns to Chicago this weekend as head coach of the Houston Texans. It’s not his first time back to the city as he faced his former team in 2014 when he was with the Buccaneers, but it’s going to be special nonetheless.
David Haugh and Dan Wiederer of the Audacy Original Podcast “Take The North” talked about Lovie Smith’s time in Chicago and some of the better Bears memories over the past few decades.
“I think as he comes into town, his legacy, his place in Bears history, is something that we should at least address and discuss, because it is significant,” Haugh said (2:11 in player above). “I think what happened with Lovie Smith from 2004 when he took over for Dick Jauron to 2012 when he was fired after going 10-6 in a playoff-or-bust ultimatum – George McCaskey’s first big move, George McCaskey’s first bad move. It’s time to reflect and I do think it’s important to note it was a time of relevance for the Bears.”
Not only did the Bears get to two NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl during Lovie’s tenure, but that matchup against the Colts in Super Bowl XLI had historical significance as well.
“The historical significance, because of what he meant to the Black coaches movement and coaching against Tony Dungy in that Super Bowl and what that meant for the growth of the game and the progress for African American head coaches in the NFL. Certainly not momentum that was not interrupted after that, but what he achieved in Chicago, you really, I think the longer he is away, the more you appreciate,” Haugh continued.
Haugh had his battles with Smith as a reporter, but he has nothing but respect for the head coach.
“I’m not going to say again that he was always the easiest guy to be around, but I think that he did the job in a way that was always professional, that was easy to respect, and he stuck and clung to the identity that he wanted his football team to represent and I give him kudos,” he said. “Because since the 1985 Super Bowl Bears, there hasn’t been a lot to celebrate in terms of seasons, in terms of tenures. Lovie Smith is the most successful coach since the Ditka era and I think when he comes back on Sunday as the head coach of the Houston Texans, back in the NFL, you have to give him his due.”
Smith had an 81-63 regular-season record in his nine seasons with the Bears, including three NFC North titles, and a 3-3 record in the playoffs. Chicago had quite a few noteworthy wins within that span.
“There are obviously signature victories all over his nine years here. Probably none more special than the comeback in Arizona to beat the Cardinals, the signature win of the Bears’ signature season of the 21st century,” Wiederer said. “You think about what that game was to those who played in it. It was just a show of toughness. It was a show of resolve. It was a show of unity. And it was a show that you could win a football game without having an ounce of offense. You could have your quarterback turn the ball over five times and you could still win a football game because you get two defensive touchdowns and a special teams score from Devin Hester and you walk out of there with one of the most rousing victories that a Bears fans have ever experienced because of some of the things you coached.”
And, of course, you can’t mention Smith’s time with the Bears without mentioning their 2006 season and run to the Super Bowl.
“The other signature win, obviously, is the NFC Title Game win over the Saints in the snow storm at Soldier Field,” Wiederer said.
Haugh covered that game in Chicago and remembers how magical it was for the city as a whole.
“It was great. That was one of the highlights of covering the Bears since I was in Chicago,” he said. “That was one of those days where different people, different context. Lovie, and Urlacher, and Rex Grossman, and then Virginia McCaskey. There were so many good moments throughout his tenure.”