(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
After nine seasons, the Chicago Bears have parted ways with head coach Lovie Smith.
The news was first reported by the NFL Network's Ian Rappoport and comes after the team failed to reach the playoffs for the fifth time in six years.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler received the news of Lovie's ouster while recording his ESPN Chicago radio show.
"I think it's going to be a sad day at Halas Hall. [I have] a lot of respect for the guy. He's made friends with a lot of the players. He's a player's coach. You know, I've been very, very lucky in my seven years to have two excellent coaches that gave a lot of respect to the players and listened to them, and Lovie was definitely one of them."
Asked if his initial reaction was one of excitement of a new beginning for the team, Cutler deflected.
"Maybe in the next couple days. I think, right now, it's a little surprised, a little sad. I wish I could have done more, offensively, to help him out," he told host Tom Waddle.
Chicago started 7-1 in 2012, but fell to 10-6 by the end of the season. They suffered a similar collapse in 2011 when they also failed to make the playoffs. Now Smith is out, despite lobbying from players like Brandon Marshall and Brian Urlacher.
"My personal experience has been amazing. It's been a character-building year for me," Marshall said Sunday on NBC Chicago's "Sports Sunday" program. "Coach Smith, you know, I remember him pulling me into the office [in] Week 2, and he looked me in the eyes and he said, 'It's not good enough.' ... That helped me a lot. Just the way he communicates with me, even trying to be a better man on the field. ... I really appreciate him for holding me accountable and you need that type of man to lead you, but at the same time it's about wins and losses."
Smith had one year left on his contract, and few coaches go into their final season as a lame duck. After one season as general manager, Phil Emery will get a chance to bring in an entirely new coaching regime.
The head coach acknowledged last week that his job was on the line but didn't reveal whether it was bothering him going into Sunday's game.
"It's the nature of the game as I see it," he said Friday. "For us it's about getting into the playoffs, you get into the playoffs a new season starts for us."
Smith is far from the only NFL coach out of a job this Monday. Eagles coach Andy Reid, Bills coach Chan Gailey, Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel and Browns coach Pat Shurmur were all let go on Monday morning. This complicates the Bears' hiring situation, as they will have to compete with several other teams for top candidates.
Bears General Manager Phil Emery scheduled a press conference for 10 a.m. Tuesday to discuss the team.