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Columnist
Time to go Papa Bear on Lovie
By Mike Imrem | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 11/29/2009 9:52 PM

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The McCaskeys have to ask themselves one question: What would Papa Bear do?

Actually, they know what George Halas would do because they were there when he did it after the 1981 season.

At 86 years of age the Bears' founder/owner/conscience pulled out the one foot he had in the bucket and used it to kick head coach Neill Armstrong out the door.

Halas fired Armstrong, replaced him with Mike Ditka and unconventionally retained Buddy Ryan as defensive coordinator.

"Are you senile?" a veteran Chicago columnist asked.

"There's no (bleeping) senility in this carcass," Halas snapped back.

If anything, the old man was senile like a football fox. He had had enough, and enough was enough for his crotchety old carcass.

Halas had seen bearable Bears teams. He had seen unbearable Bears teams. Nobody had to tell him the difference.

Two years later Halas died and two years after that the Bears won Super Bowl XX. His impatience, intolerance and urgency had been instilled in that championship team.

After Sunday's 36-10 loss at Minnesota, the McCaskeys can't feel any better than their father/grandfather/great grandfather did 28 years ago.

"Today we had problems in all areas," Bears head coach Lovie Smith admitted in his maddening monotone.

The Bears look like either they can't play or like they don't want to play. From here it looks like the talent is neither great nor that bad.

My most compelling memory from 1981 is of asking an offensive lineman after the season's final game whether he wanted Armstrong back.

To paraphrase his answer: "Sure. Otherwise we could get someone like (Eagles coach Dick) Vermeil in here."

Armstrong was a player's coach. Vermeil was a taskmaster. Ditka came in and made both look like Sunday school teachers.

That's what is frightening about the Bears today. Smith is a player's coach and the players don't look like they're playing for the coach anymore.

Halas wouldn't have stood for it. As much as he hated to part with money, to keep from being embarrassed any longer he would have figured out how to make eating Smith's contract taste delicious.

As ugly as the Bears looked against an outstanding Vikings team, what if they lose at home to the pathetic Rams next week, or to the rival Packers the week after, or to both?

The McCaskeys must notice in Smith what Halas noticed in Armstrong: This is a good man but much too cool, calm and collected for the Bears.

Halas himself was a wild man on the sideline. He hired Ditka essentially because Iron Mike was a jagged chip off his maniacal block.

Crazy doesn't always work, of course. Sometimes reserved is preferable. Not here, though. Certainly not now. The Bears need a mood change.

Simply replacing Ron Turner with a new offensive coordinator won't do it. Replacing Smith the way Halas replaced Armstrong is worth a try.

If general manager Jerry Angelo won't make the move, the McCaskeys should overrule him the way Halas overruled GM Jim Finks.

The Bears are approaching a crisis point, and the McCaskeys have to ask themselves what Papa Bear would do.

As if they don't already know.