The Bears loss to the Bengals on Sunday night wasn't just a run of the mill beating. It was catastrophe from start to finish, the kind of performance a professional football shouldn't exhibit. 45-10 losses should be reserved for lopsided college football results.
But this was pro football, and that means it's probably fair to begin examining whether Lovie Smith, the Bears' head coach since 2004, has run his course in Chicago. Is it fair to blame Lovie for what happened on Sunday?
In many ways, Smith already put himself in the line of fire, deciding to take over defensive play-calling duties before the season began. Smith has thus far been a better defensive coordinator than perhaps anyone but former assistant Ron Rivera. The continuing defensive problems in 2009 have less to do with play-calling than with talent; the Bears just aren't the same defense they used to be.
So if Lovie Smith loses his job this season, he might deserve it, but he certainly isn't the only one to blame. If Lovie goes, so should Jerry Angelo and his team of scouts that have wasted so many Bears drafts in recent years. If only the NFL coaching carousel ran on fairness.
Meanwhile, on the local media circuit, the Tribune's Rick Morrissey is already banging the drum, arguing that the players were unprepared because Smith has spent years "whispering sweet nothings into their ears." Morrissey would prefer Smith shouted, probably, as if that's what motivates professional football players in the year 2009.
David Haugh believes he doesn't know what to believe about the Bears anymore. A 35-point loss puts whatever previous knowledge -- that running back Matt Forte was better than Cedric Benson, that Jay Cutler was a significant upgrade over Kyle Orton, that the Bears defense could play coherently again -- into doubt.
The Sun-Times's Neil Hayes doesn't mix words, calling it the "worst performance in franchise history." He also thinks there's little the chance the Bears as currently constructed can compete with the likes of the Minnesota Vikings; the Bears would settle for the wild card instead (if they're lucky, that is). The ST's Mike Mulligan says Smith failed in two regards: play-calling and preparation.
That sound you hear? Lovie Smith's clock, ticking.
Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com. Follow him on Twitter.