Some Bears players took the news hard. Devin Hester, who blamed media and fans for Smith’s firing, was visibly crushed as he cleaned out his locker at Halas Hall following a brief team meeting in which Smith addressed his players.
“We already knew what the news was,” Hester said. “Just hearing it from him. The media, the false fans, you all got what you all wanted. Majority of you all wanted him out. As players, we wanted him in. I guess the false fans outruled us. I thought he was a great coach, probably one of the best coaches I have ever been around. He brought me in.”
Jay Cutler was more pragmatic, saying that “change isn’t always a bad thing.”
“I think Phil (Emery) and George (McCaskey) and everyone involved, they’re going to do whatever’s necessary, offensively, defensively, special teams wise to put a good product out there next year and make this team the best they can,” Cutler said.
Since Smith took over in 2004, the Bears have ranked higher than 23rd in offense only once. They have ranked 28th or lower four times.
Smith tried four offensive coordinators during his Bears career. His first thought was to run a similar offense to the one he was familiar with when he was defensive coordinator of the Rams, so he hired Terry Shea.
The Bears finished last in the league in offense behind quarterbacks Chad Hutchinson, Craig Krenzel, Jonathan Quinn and Rex Grossman, and Shea was dismissed after one season.
Smith then turned to Ron Turner for his second stint as Bears offensive coordinator. Turner lasted five years in what was the heyday for Smith’s offense.
It was during this period that Smith’s stubborn allegiance to Grossman became an issue. “Rex is our quarterback,” he said over and over again.
Those days Smith often talked frequently about how the Bears “get off the bus running,” and the team achieved its offensive identity by pounding the ball with Thomas Jones, then Cedric Benson and finally Matt Forte.