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Progress demands coordination
By Mike Imrem | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 12/14/2009 12:07 AM

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A thought occurred Sunday as Green Bay's Ryan Grant ran 62 yards for a touchdown on the game's first play from scrimmage.

Who is the Bears' defensive coordinator responsible for allowing this to happen?

Oh, right, essentially Lovie Smith is.

The Bears' head coach said when asked the reason for the defense's slowest of slow starts, "I wish I knew."

After Green Bay won 21-14, Smith could have had the same response about coaching mismanagement costing two timeouts on one play, about his team's 13 penalties and about Jay Cutler still throwing damaging interceptions deep into December.

The defense alone is a symptom of a disease that the Bears inflicted on themselves this off-season. The defense was so deficient last year that Smith felt compelled to take over the playcalling this year.

New Orleans, Green Bay and Denver also knew last winter that they had to improve on defense. Ah, but their head coaches weren't smart enough to take over that unit.

No, those teams hired veteran defensive coordinators - Gregg Williams in New Orleans, Dom Capers in Green Bay and Mike Nolan in Denver.

Last season the Saints and Broncos finished 8-8 and the Packers were 6-10. To this point this season they are, in order, 13-0, 9-4 and 8-5.

For the mathematically challenged, that's a combined leap from 22-26 to 30-9.

Meanwhile, with Smith splitting time between head coaching and defensive coordinating, the Bears have regressed from finishing 9-7 in 2008 to a current 5-8.

Seems like maybe turning a defense over to an experienced coordinator full time was a better strategy than turning it over to Smith part time.

This isn't necessarily Smith's fault. The Bears traditionally are stingy paying assistant coaches, and Williams, Capers and Nolan are worth more than less.

Anyway, with Capers directing the NFL's No. 1 defense, the Packers beat the Bears for the second time this season.

Again, this is just another symptom of the Bears' disease. Something is off kilter throughout this organization right now and needs to be rebalanced sooner than later.

Apparently that something won't be anything as dramatic as firing Smith. The Green Bay game likely was the last chance to make ownership think about it, but superficially the Bears' loss wasn't as disgusting as it needed to be.

Not even probably finishing below .500 and definitely missing the playoffs for the third straight season is likely to cost Smith his job.

Here's my theory about the Bears' latest loss: Green Bay could have named the final score but decided not to embarrass their bitter rival.

"I think we definitely left some points on the field during the first half," Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said without mentioning whether it was intentional.

If the Packers won by, say, 40-14, and the Soldier Field crowd booed mercilessly, the McCaskeys would have had to reconsider retaining Smith.

At least give Smith credit for noticing that "this season hasn't turned out exactly the way we would have liked."

Here's another thought that occurred Sunday: Maybe the Bears should keep Smith, hire a defensive coordinator and let the new guy essentially double as head coach.