I think it’s probably a little dramatic to call tomorrow’s matchup between the Chicago Bears and Houston Texans a “homecoming” for Lovie Smith, as some have. After all, Smith has played the Bears twice as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, once being at Soldier Field. Still, it is a perfect time to remember the things that Lovie Smith did for the franchise during his time in Chicago.
Smith spent eight seasons in Chicago, took the Bears to their only Super Bowl appearance since 1985, and won 81 games as the head coach of the Bears. Lovie’s time in Chicago was pretty much the golden era of Bears football for anyone born after the 80s, so we can all appreciate it to one degree or another.
Lovie was also the first Black head coach in Bears history and just the Black head coach hired in the league’s modern history. Smith was hired the year after the Rooney Rule was implemented, the policy that requires league teams to interview minority candidates for heading coach and senior football operation jobs.
For today’s Bears Rewind, I’m going to share some of my favorite Lovie Smith moments with you.
Lovie Beats Packers on his First Try
Unlike Matt Eberflus, Lovie Smith made it clear that beating the Packers was a goal of his when he was hired by the Bears ahead of the 2004 season. Lovie had three goals when he came to Chicago: winning the Super Bowl, capturing the division title, and beating the Packers.
On his first trip to Green Bay, Lovie delivered on the latter, beating the Packers 21-10 at Lambeau Field.
The Lovie Smith era started with the Bears having some success against Green Bay, winning seven of the first nine meetings between the two. Still, it finished like the rest, with the Bears losing nine of the next 10, and Smith finished 8-11 in nine seasons as the Bears’ head coach.
Bears Clinch NFC North on Christmas Day ’05
Lovie Smith’s second trip to Lambeau Field also resulted in a win; this time, the victory sealed the Bears’ NFC North Championship that season.
Lance Briggs sealed the deal for Chicago with a pick-six against Brett Favre, and the Bears won 24-17 for their first sweep of the Packers since 1991 and the last one to date.
The Bears bounced back from a 1-3 start that season and finished up with an NFC North title and a first-round bye. It was one of the most enjoyable Bears seasons in my lifetime.
Bears Beat Seahawks to Advance to NFC Championship
It’s easy to forget that the Bears made two NFC Championship appearances under Lovie Smith. While the NFC Championship itself (against Green Bay) was a game to forget in Bears history, the game that got them there was more impressive, and it earned Lovie a new extension, his final with the team.
Jay Cutler scored two rushing touchdowns and threw for one as the Bears jumped out to a 28-0 lead over the Seahawks (who upset the Saints in the Wild Card round), and the Bears eventually went on to win that one 35-24 after a late rally by Matt Hassleback and the Seahawks fell short.
Bears Win NFC Championship at Soldier Field
Cold. Snowy. Glorious. That’s the best way to describe January 21, 2007, in short form. Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints came into town, and the Bears beat them in the most Bears-y fashion imaginable. Three field goals, three rushing touchdowns, a safety, and one touchdown through the air.
That win over the Saints punched the Bears’ ticket to the Super Bowl for the first time since ’85 … and, well, we won’t talk about what came next. But, that was the highlight of Lovie Smith’s tenure in Chicago, one I’ll always remember fondly.