Lovie Smith is known for his calm demeanor. His bright smile and nomad beard highlight his facial features. These traits can be misleading — the warm and charming smile with a smooth and swift head nod to avoid any conversation. But, after one particular game Coach, Smith asked to speak with me.
After watching the NFC Championship Game limp off the field and a 300-pound sumo dancing defensive tackle in the end zone to close out the 2010-11 NFL season. There were high expectations for the 2011-12 NFL Season. The offense and defense were returning starters, and this was the second season for Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz. Spirits were high in the Windy City, and we were looking forward to an exciting season.
After the first nine games, we were a 6-3 record. A favorable upcoming schedule as we faced the AFC West in a down year. Our first opponent from the division was the San Diego Chargers, with a 4-5 record. We won the game, but it came at the expense of losing our starting quarterback. We would then lose the next five games before winning the finale in Minnesota.
There is always a backstory to be told, and here is mine. During the Green Bay game, before Minnesota finale, I managed one catch for 45 yards. This 10-yard catch, turned 45 yards, came with a few jukes and hesitation moves that saw me tackled at the one-yard line. This catch and run was so impressive that Coach Lovie Smith asked to speak with me after the game.
Until this point, four years of my career I had never had a conversation with Coach Smith outside of “Hello” or “How’s the family doing?” This particular request was baffling. The one thing that I did know was that it would be short because he was a man of few words. As I walked in the hallway of the visitor’s locker room inside Lambeau Field, he looked me in the eyes. Coach Smith asked how my body felt and if was I frustrated with the outcome of the game. My response was “I was upset with the result, but we have better football ahead of us.” The next few words that came out of his mouth surprised me. Coach Smith states “we are going to get someone in here to call plays to get you the ball.” Completely mind-blown and in shock. I mean, I know that catch and run was dazzling, but saying you’re going to find an offensive coordinator to get me the ball was completely unexpected. I was excited and eager to get to the offseason and find out who the Silent Coach would hire! Anticipation filled my heart as the season ended. Coach Smith has elected an offensive coordinator. Wait, it’s only been a few days since the firing of Mike Martz. How did he select someone so fast? We all wondered while sitting in the room. To learn that the new offensive coordinator was hired from within and was the offensive line coach. Unfortunately, this rudimentary hire would be career ending for a lot of Bears personnel: the coaches, some players and unfortunately one more season for myself.
Sometimes it’s better when a coach does not speak; at least you don’t have to worry about letdowns and defeats. #StoryTimeWithEarl