The joke's on them
Another Bears embarrassment makes them a national punch line
If a team is a reflection of its coach, then what does Lovie Smith see when he looks into the Chicago Bears' mirror?
Does he see what we see, what everyone in the NFL sees: a team devoid of discipline, a team in disarray, a team so laughably screwed up that Fox color analyst Troy Aikman couldn't help but mock it during Sunday's telecast? Said Aikman as the Bears bumbled their way to a 41-21 loss to the Arizona Cardinals at Soldier Field: "I thought high school football was played on Friday.''
The Bears. A national punch line.
For the second time in three games, Smith's Bears embarrassed themselves. Two Sundays ago, it was a humiliating 35-point loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. This Sunday, it was a lifeless 20-point loss to the Cardinals.
Smith won't say it because he can't. And even if he could, he wouldn't. But his Bears are finished. Done. There's a better chance of Smith doing improv at Second City than the Bears reaching the playoffs.
They aren't going to win the NFC North. They aren't going to squirm into the postseason as a wild-card team -- not with a schedule that has them flying cross-country and playing the San Francisco 49ers on three days of prep time, followed by a game against the Philadelphia Eagles, followed by a trip to the Metrodome and the Minnesota Bretts, followed by a game against the Green Bay Packers, then at the Baltimore Ravens, then another game against the Vikings. Do whatever kind of Lovie math you want, but this season is dearly departed.
The players' coach -- that's Smith's rep, right? -- looks as if he's lost this team. If nothing else, Tommie Harris, his two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, looks as if he's lost his mind.
Harris got tossed from Sunday's game after just four plays. Four. The brilliant Harris threw a right punch at a Cardinals' offensive lineman as referee Ed Hochuli stood about a chin strap away. So much for the Bears' composure and discipline.
With Harris gone, the absolute worst rushing team in the league (just 65 yards per game) gouged the Bears' defense for 182 yards on the ground. And when it wasn't giving up rushing yards, it was giving up passing yards and touchdowns to Kurt Warner.
Warner, fresh off his five-interception, one-fumble performance against Carolina a week earlier, threw five touchdowns with no INTs against the Bears. The Cardinals scored on all five of their first-half possessions. And they did it with Pro Bowl wide receiver Anquan Boldin steaming on the sideline. (He was a late inactive for the game.)
The mastermind of the Bears' defense? Smith.
It was Smith who decided it was a good idea to single-cover perhaps the best wide receiver on the planet. Cornerback Charles Tillman, meet Larry Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald terrorized Tillman for seven catches, 88 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. Then Tillman went out with a shoulder injury, and Zack Bowman tried covering him. That didn't work, either.
It didn't help that strong safety Al Afalava suffered a shoulder injury, or that linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer got dinged up. And it's never a good thing when linebacker Brian Urlacher is in street clothes, as he has been since Game 1.
But Smith's Bears are a team full of football acne. They committed nine penalties for 89 yards. They had a field goal blocked and returned far enough that the Cardinals kicked their own field goal just before first half's end. They saw their Pro Bowl defensive tackle ejected and their Pro Bowl quarterback, Jay Cutler, flagged for popping off to the officials.
Don't look now, but the Bears are acting and playing more and more like the Washington Redskins. Penalties. Punches. Cheap talk.
Cutler threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns, but he needed 47 attempts to do it. He also threw a late interception, though blame receiver Earl Bennett, the one with the supposed close connection with Cutler, for cutting his route short.
Cutler still forces the ball. He'll always do that. But now he's doing it as he runs for his life.
He was sacked four times Sunday to bring the season total to 19. That's after eight games. Last season, as a Denver Bronco, he was sacked 11 times. Ah, the good ol' days.
But back to Smith. Why exactly, with your team down by 20 and only 1:31 remaining in the game, do you keep your franchise quarterback in the game? But there was Cutler getting sacked on the next-to-last play of the blowout. Foolish.
Playoffs? Playoffs? The Bears aren't going to the playoffs. They haven't sniffed the postseason since 2006, and they're going to be lucky to win eight games. And if that happens, you'll hear more than boos from Soldier Field. You'll see heads roll from Halas Hall.
Smith isn't going anywhere -- that's the conventional wisdom. But many more losses like Sunday's rout, and Bears management might not have a choice. That's because the mirror doesn't lie.
Gene Wojciechowski is a columnist for ESPN.com.
ESPNCHICAGO.COM'S BEARS COVERAGE
Mike Martz could be the Bears' next offensive coordinator, but he comes with a lot of baggage. Melissa Isaacson