INDIANAPOLIS – Lovie Smith lamented the ouster of the general manager who hired him and applauded the general manager who’ll determine how much longer he’ll remain the Bears coach.
But as he prepares for the 2012 season, Smith couldn’t be more pleased with the coaching staff he has assembled.
“We have great leadership,” Smith said. “We have a strong staff, and I know the guys are excited about the offseason. We missed it last year and can’t wait to get back out there [in April].”
Longtime general manager Jerry Angelo was replaced by Phil Emery last month, and the team is undergoing changes under a new leader. But with the right offseason moves, the Bears can bounce back next season, and their continuity, not only with players but coaches, could be a key.
Smith is excited about his entire staff, even mentioning special-teams assistant Kevin O’Dea. But he’s especially grateful for the experience of his three coordinators, two of whom have been head coaches (Mike Tice and Rod Marinelli) and another (Dave Toub) who interviewed for the Miami Dolphins’ head-coaching vacancy last month.
The most notable change was at offensive coordinator. The Bears parted ways with Mike Martz and promoted offensive line coach Tice.
“Mike and I have a long history together,” said Smith, who worked under Martz with the St. Louis Rams, “but we did need to go in a different direction, and I thought we needed different leadership.”
While quarterback Jay Cutler is working with his third offensive coordinator in Chicago, he and the entire offense already know much about Martz’s replacement.
“For me, when I did make a change, I wanted to get someone to put us a little bit further along in the game,” Smith said. “A lot of times, as a new coach, you have to get to know a guy. But we’re already past that, so we’re a lot further ahead.”
Asked what has impressed him about Tice, Smith said, “Just everything.”
Smith noted Tice’s leadership in coaching the offensive line.
“Mike had all different types of injuries, but he didn’t complain,” Smith said. “He just worked with them and saw improvement. I’ve seen Mike in every situation.”
Smith said he had no issue with this being Tice’s first offensive coordinator job, pointing to Marinelli as an example. Although he’d been a defensive line coach and head coach, Marinelli hadn’t been a defensive coordinator until last season.
“I got a chance to go through the interview process with Mike and like everything he did with it, and that’s why I made the move as quick as I did,” Smith said. “Initially going in there’s always a plan to look at as many guys as possible with every position, but once I find the right guy, I normally shut it down from there, and that’s what happened with Mike.”
One of the appeals, Smith said, was Tice’s familiarity with the offensive personnel and philosophy.
“Even though we made changes on the offensive side, we are going to keep a lot of the same terminology and how we call things,” Smith said. “So that will help a lot.”
Smith suggested that reporters “jumped the gun a little bit” on the Bears’ pursuit of a passing game coordinator to complement Tice.
“I thought about a lot of different things, but in the end, I didn’t feel like we needed one,” Smith said. “We have a coordinator in Mike Tice. We don’t have a defensive run-game coordinator or anything like that. I was trying to get the perfect group that I could on the offensive side of the ball.”
That includes new quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who worked with Cutler with the Denver ÂBroncos.
Smith said he sought Cutler’s opinion on Bates given their history.
“I just thought he was a natural fit for him to come in as our quarterbacks coach,” Smith said.
“He’s pumped,” Smith said, “to say the least.”
Which also would describe Smith’s attitude toward his staff.