New 7th seed helps Bears 8 years too late for Lovie Smith
Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy watches during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)While Matt Nagy gets to coach Chicago in the playoffs despite a middling 8-8 record that could help save his job, former Bears coach Lovie Smith can only wonder if the extra team in the postseason could have helped him eight years ago. Smith’s Bears teams from the beginning of last decade are near the top of that list. Chicago lost five of six and missed the postseason as the seventh seed with an 8-8 mark. The tough-luck missing playoff team that season was the Giants, who missed out the year before Eli Manning and Co. won their second Super Bowl under coach Tom Coughlin.
Illinois hires Bielema as coach to lift struggling program
Bielema is returning to the Big Ten and his home state to coach Illinois. Illinois hired the former Wisconsin and Arkansas coach, hoping he can turn around a program with nine straight losing seasons. Illinois said Bielema will receive a six-year contract with an annual salary starting at $4.2 million, and begin work immediately. He became the third coach in NCAA history to win 12 games in his rookie season when Wisconsin went 12-1 in 2006. In January, the New York Giants and new head coach Joe Judge hired Bielema as outside linebackers coach and senior assistant.
Illinois fires coach Lovie Smith after 5 seasons
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Illinois fired coach Lovie Smith on Sunday with a game left in its ninth consecutive losing season. Smith became Illinois' first Black head football coach when he was hired by athletic director Josh Whitman in March 2016. The longtime NFL coach went 17-39 in five seasons at the school. Smith’s original deal was for six years and $21 million, but he received a two-year extension through 2023 after Illinois went 4-8 in his third season. The slide continued into this year, with Illinois losing its first three by a combined 117-45 score.