SEASON OVER: From 7-1 to out of the playoffs. A 10-6 record gets most teams to the postseason, but not these Bears. A 26-24 win in Detroit wasn’t enough, as Adrian Peterson and the Vikings beat the Packers in Minnesota in a thriller (highlights courtesy NFL.com). Immediately after the Vikings’ win sealed the Bears’ fate, the drama only thickened. Lovie Smith has a year left on his contract, his team has made the playoffs only once in the last six season, and change is on the minds of the media Monday. Rick Morrissey writes, “I’d like to thank the Vikings for putting the Bears out of my misery,” (Sun-Times) before calling for Lovie’s scalp. David Haugh couched change in the new face at Halas Hall, Phil Emery (Tribune), and asked just how serious the GM is about a Super Bowl here. ESPN Chicago‘s Jon Greenberg has more of a case of Lovie fatigue, while Mike Imrem in the Daily Herald went populist, pleading on behalf of frustrated fans.
For their part Sunday, the Bears preached continuity. Brandon Marshall wants Lovie back (ESPN Chicago), and Brian Urlacher wants to be back (ESPN Chicago). Me? I blame the schedule for delusions of grandeur. The Bears were never a Super Bowl contender—we only thought they were, at 7-1, when they beat six lousy teams in a row. The quirk in scheduling fooled us, and them, too, probably. The collapse was more about playing better teams than anything else. Sure, the Bears might have won a home game against Seattle or snagged a W on the road in Minnesota, but they didn’t. And now the season is over, even if Lovie is still hanging on—for now.
UPDATE: The Bears fired Smith Monday morning after nine seasons, four offensive coordinators, and an 81-63 record (Chicago Tribune). Those 81 wins place him third in Bears in history. For the first time since 2004, the Bears are in search of a new head coach.
In other news…
ESPN Chicago: Most-read stories of 2012
CSN Chicago: No contact yet, but Derrick Rose returns to practice
Chicago Tribune: NU a quarter of the way to financing new facility