During his nine seasons with the Bears, Lovie Smith won three divisional titles and took his teams to two NFC Championships and one Super Bowl. Smith (.562) and Mike Ditka (.631) are the only Bears coaches to have winning records since the merger in 1970.
What makes the feat even more amazing are the quarterbacks Smith had in his lineup.
Before Jay Cutler there was Rex Grossman, Chad Hutchinson, Craig Krenzel, Jonathan Quinn, Kyle Orton, Brian Griese and Josh McCown, to name a few.
This got the great Bill Barnwell of Grantland wondering: “Has Lovie Smith had the worst crop of quarterbacks of any head coach in league history?”
Barnwell researched every coach with 70-plus games and their quarterbacks since the merger in 1970. He rated the quarterbacks according to adjusted net yards per attempt, reasoning that the data works “across the drastically different passing eras of the last five decades.”
His findings? Only Rex Ryan (Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith) and Marion Campbell (Bob Lee, Steve Bartkowski, Ron Jaworski, Scott Campbell, Chris Miller) have had worse signal-callers than Smith.
About the former Bears head coach, Barnwell writes:
During his 10 years as an NFL head coach, Smith has yet to have a single season when his quarterback posted an ANY/A [adjusted net yards per attempt] better than league average. The only other coach to do that for as many seasons as Smith is Dick Jauron, who happened to be his predecessor in Chicago. Smith has had only one season when his quarterback managed to make it within 10 percent of league average — in 2006, when Grossman stayed healthy and the Bears made it to the Super Bowl. If Jameis Winston is just passable, it would be one of the best seasons a Lovie Smith quarterback has ever had.
It should be noted that Lovie’s winning percentage is far better than Ryan (.479) and Campbell (.300). In fact, only one other coach in Barnwell’s Top 10 finished with a winning record—Bum Phillips, who was five games over .500 in his 11 seasons.