Daily Herald
Here's the plan: Give Smith a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum
By Mike Imrem | Daily Herald Columnist
Published: 1/4/2010 12:08 AM

It's over. The Bears' season is over. Our four-month civic nightmare is over.

The Bears did win their final two games, which was like plopping a couple cherries atop a steaming bowl of salmonella.

So now what after Sunday's 37-23 gimme at Detroit?

The first thing that should happen this morning is Lovie Smith's dismissal. However, that's the last thing ownership wants to do.

Firing Smith would cost the McCaskeyes at least the $11 million on the last two years of his contract, so they figure to keep him as head coach.

"Until somebody tells me otherwise," Smith said when asked whether he expects to be back next season.

So, again, what to do?

"Change happens every year," Smith said after the Bears finished at 7-9.

Yes, change does, but not like the change I'm proposing: Keep Smith but emasculate him.

By that I mean make the head coach a figurehead, sort of like Bobby Bowden was the past few years at Florida State.

Bears management should turn over the offense to a new coordinator with the imagination to make the most of quarterback Jay Cutler.

Ron Turner had time to grow into that kind of coach. Some insist he couldn't because his players were overmatched, but isn't that when a coach has to demonstrate some creativity?

The Bears need a new approach on offense, a new attitude, a new voice. I'm not talking about someone who merely would replace Turner. I'm talking about someone capable of being the head coach of the offense.

It would be like what George Halas did when hiring Mike Ditka as head coach. Papa Bear retained defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan and gave him the run of that unit.

In this updated version, the offense would belong totally to the coordinator, or associate head coach, or offensive guru, or Lovie irritant, or whatever official title he would have.

Lock Smith out of the offense's meeting rooms. Fine anybody who gives him a copy of the game plan. Suspend anyone who says, "We get off the bus running."

OK, so there you have Step 1: Hire a quality offensive coordinator, let him pick his position coaches and that phase is fixed.

Now let's apply the same principle to Step 2: Hire a defensive coordinator to replace Smith as play-caller and give the new guy ultimate authority over that side of the ball.

(By the way, a bonus benefit of taking the defense and offense from Smith is it would give him time to think of some new, snappy material for his news conferences.)

During games Smith could stand motionless and emotionless on the sideline - er, wait, he already does that.

Listen, I don't know whether these changes are even possible considering Smith reportedly has contractual control over his coaching staff.

The Bears might have to threaten to fire him if he won't agree to replace Turner on offense and himself on defense.

If Smith calls what he perceives as a bluff, management should prove it isn't by giving him his $11 million to disappear.

What the Bears have to do to really end our long civic nightmare always comes back to firing Lovie Smith, doesn't it?