Lovie Lee Smith (born May 8, 1958) is the head coach of the Chicago Bears professional football team of the NFL. Smith has been to the Super Bowl twice, as the defensive coordinator for the 2001 Saint Louis Rams and as the head coach for the Chicago Bears in 2006.
Lovie Smith was born in Gladewater and raised in Big Sandy, Texas. He was named after his great aunt, Lavana. During Smith's high school career in Big Sandy, he earned all-state honors for three years as a defensive end and linebacker. His team won three consecutive state championships in 1973-75, including a 0–0 tie in 1974 versus Celina High School of legendary coach G. A. Moore. In 1975, Big Sandy had one of the most dominant seasons in high school football history, as the defense allowed only 15 points (11 shutouts) all season, while the offense, featuring eventual Miami Dolphins running back David Overstreet, scored a then-national record 824 points.
Smith played college football at University of Tulsa under head coach John Cooper. He was a two-time All-American at linebacker and safety. After graduation he immediately pursued a coaching career. He was hired as defensive coordinator at his hometown high school in 1980. A year later he left to coach at Cascia Hall Preparatory School in Tulsa. By 1983, he began coaching linebackers on the college level, first at his alma mater Tulsa (1983–86), and then at University of Wisconsin–Madison (1987), Arizona State University (1988–91), and the University of Kentucky (1992). He also served as defensive backs coach at the University of Tennessee (1993–94), and Ohio State University (1995).
Smith began his professional coaching career as a linebacker coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Under the guidance of Tony Dungy, he helped develop the Tampa 2 defense. After spending five years with Buccaneers, Smith was hired as the defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams under head coach Mike Martz. While in St. Louis, Smith improved the Rams defense, which went from giving up a league-worst 29.4 points per game in 2000 to an average of 17.1 points in 2001. The Rams won the 2001 NFC Championship and advanced to Super Bowl XXXVI. The team ultimately lost to the New England Patriots in one of the biggest Super Bowl upsets of all time.
The Chicago Bears hired Smith as head coach in 2004, following the dismissal of Dick Jauron. He struggled during his first season with the Bears, as the installation of new offensive and defensive systems and a series of injuries, including a season-ending knee injury to starting quarterback Rex Grossman, contributed to a 5–11 record. Despite their poor offense, the Bears’ defense saw some major improvement, rising from 22nd in 2003 to 13th in 2004.
In 2005, history repeated itself when quarterback Rex Grossman suffered a serious injury during the preseason and missed a majority of the season. Despite Grossman's loss, Smith and Ron Rivera used a dominant defense and the timely play of backup quarterback Kyle Orton to earn a 11–5 record, after starting the season with a 1–3 record. The Bears defense finished second in the league in terms of yardage, while allowing the fewest points in the league.
The Bears’ dramatic turn around in the 2005 season earned Smith national recognition. He won the Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year Award that year. After returning to the field following their first round bye, the Bears played the Carolina Panthers, with a fully healed Rex Grossman as quarterback. Both the Bears’ offense and defense struggled to keep up with the Panthers, and eventually lost, 29–21. Nevertheless, Smith and the Bears were optimistic about the future.
Smith and the Bears’ management drew criticism in April 2006, by trading away their first round pick and drafting five defensive players. The preseason criticism increased when he named Grossman, who struggled to move the Bears’ offense during the preseason, as the Bears' starting quarterback. Grossman led the Bears to seven consecutive victories, but struggled during the later portion of the season. Smith stood by Grossman through much criticism. The Bears finished the 2006 season with a 13–3 record, earning the NFC’s top playoff seed. The Bears finished the season with the NFL's second-ranked scoring offense, and fifth-ranked overall defense.
Smith led the Bears to a 27–24 victory against the defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks during the 2006 Divisional Playoffs, winning the first playoff game of his career. Later, a 39–14 victory came against the New Orleans Saints at the NFC Championship. Smith became the first Black head coach (and the second minority coach, behind Tom Flores) to lead his team to a Super Bowl, just hours before Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy, his good friend and mentor, became the second. The two friends together became the first two Black head coaches in the Super Bowl. The Bears lost Super Bowl XLI, 29–17, and Smith earned the somewhat dubious honor of being the first African American head coach to lose in the Super Bowl.
|Smith at training camp, 2009|
Following Chicago's successful season, Smith demanded a pay raise. The lowest-paid coach in the NFL in 2006 at $1.35 million, Smith would have earned $1.45 million in the final season of a four-year contract. After a stalemate in contract negotiations, the Bears signed Smith to a new four-year contract worth $22 million on March 1. However, he parted with defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, who was not re-signed after his contract expired. Additionally, four other members of Smith's coaching staff also left the team.
|Smith on the sideline in November 2009|
In 2007, Smith, confident in Grossman's abilities, named him the team's starting quarterback over Kyle Orton and Brian Griese. After the team started the season with a 1–2 record, Smith announced that Griese would replace Grossman. Griese lead the Bears to a 2–3 record, but sustained an injury in a game against the Oakland Raiders, which allowed Grossman to become the team's starting quarterback again. However, Grossman was later injured in the season, and temporarily relieved by Griese. Smith ultimately allowed Kyle Orton to finish the remainder of the season, who led the Bears to a 2–1 record. The team's inconsistency at the quarterback position and failure to establish a proper running game contributed to the team's 7–9 finish. While the team finished last in the NFC North, Smith was pleased that the team ended the season by winning their last two games. Bob Babich, the team's defensive coordinator, was also criticized for his play calling.
The next year, Smith and the Bears parted with their leading rusher Cedric Benson, passer Griese, and receiver Bernard Berrian. Smith declared Kyle Orton as the team's starting quarterback, who started the season with an upset victory over the Indianapolis Colts. The Bears proceeded to go 2–2, with two overtime losses. The team managed to avoid falling below .500 for the remainder of the season, but missed the playoffs after losing their season finale to the Houston Texans. Smith was pleased with the success of rookie running back Matt Forte and quarterback Kyle Orton, who finished the season with a 79.6 quarterback rating. After the season's conclusion, Smith demoted Babich and took over defensive play calling responsibilities. He was also reunited with his long-time friend, Rod Marinelli, who had lost his head coaching job with the Detroit Lions.
Later in the offseason, Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo had conflicting views on the future of the team's quarterback position. While Smith was content with Orton, Angelo was more interested in creating a long-term solution to the position. Angelo traded Orton and the Bears' 2009 and 2010 first round draft picks for Jay Cutler of the Denver Broncos. The team's high expectations were quickly grounded when the Bears struggled in the month of November, losing four of five games. The Bears were eliminated from the playoff race for the third consecutive year after losing to the Green Bay Packers during a Week 14 matchup. The loss marked the first time that the Bears under Lovie Smith had ever lost two games to Green Bay in a single season.
A week after the loss to Green Bay, it was reported that despite rumors about changes to the Bears coaching staff, Smith would remain the team's head coach. Jerry Angelo, the team's general manager, refused to confirm these reports when addressing the media the following Sunday. Smith finished the season with consecutive wins against the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions. His victory over Detroit marked his 100th game as the team's head coach.
After the season's conclusion, the Bears organization announced that Smith would return in 2010. However, the organization fired offensive coordinator Ron Turner and three other offensive coaches. Turner was replaced by Mike Martz, who had been the head coach of the St. Louis Rams when Smith was their defensive coordinator. Smith was relieved of his defensive play-calling responsibilities, while Babich was officially demoted as the team's defensive coordinator.
Lovie and his wife, MaryAnne Smith, have three children: Mikal, Matthew, and Miles.
Smith, whose mother is blind because of diabetes, is an active supporter of the American Diabetes Association. In addition to participating in various events for the ADA, he also donates ten tickets to every Bears’ game to children suffering from diabetes. He and his wife are also the founders of the Lovie and MaryAnne Smith Foundation, a program which donates college tuition funds towards impoverished children. He was the Grand Marshal for the USG Sheetrock 400 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series race at Chicagoland Speedway on July 15, 2007.
His mother, Mae Smith, died on February, 1, 2011? at age 77 in a Texas hospital. Her funeral is set for Saturday, February 5, 2011, afternoon at Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas.
Smith is a devout Christian and has contributed every month to Brown's Chapel, his former Methodist church in Texas, even though he no longer resides in Texas.
Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
CHI 2004 5 11 0 .313 4th in NFC North - - - -
CHI 2005 11 5 0 .688 1st in NFC North 0 1 .000 Lost to Carolina Panthers in NFC Divisional Game.
CHI 2006 13 3 0 .813 1st in NFC North 2 1 .666 Lost to Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI.
CHI 2007 7 9 0 .438 4th in NFC North - - - -
CHI 2008 9 7 0 .563 2nd in NFC North - - - -
CHI 2009 7 9 0 .438 3rd in NFC North - - - -
CHI 2010 11 5 0 .688 1st in NFC North 1 1 .500 Lost to Green Bay Packers in NFC Championship Game.
CHI Total 63 49 0 .563 3 3 .500
Total 63 49 0 .563 3 3 .500 -
NFL head coaches under whom Lovie Smith has served:
Tony Dungy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1996-2000)
Mike Martz, St. Louis Rams (2001–2003)
Assistant coaches under Lovie Smith who became NFL head coaches:
Perry Fewell, Buffalo Bills (Interim, 2009)
Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers (2011-present)