A Little New Job Advice for Lovie Smith
BY SEAN SULLIVAN | MAR 21, 2016
Two worlds collided when Lovie Smith, the architect of the last competent Bears team, and Illinois’ athletic director Josh Whitman, the architect of pretty much nothing yet, agreed to make Smith only the third coach in the storied 192-day history of Illinois football.
This is a big return for the Belovied One. And for an Illini team that hasn’t won a national title since 1951, he’s a sign of instant credibility. And just like Bears fans relentlessly pine for the glory days of 1985, so too will Illini fans shake off their skepticism and vow to Make Illinois Great Again — if their new coach can convince them that what worked in the past is fine and dandy now.
So, if I could just address Lovie here, here are some recommendations as you, Lovie Smith, try to lead this once-storied institution back to the top.
Don’t even worry about offense
Your Bears teams were known for hard-nosed defense and an offense led by what appeared to be 11 essay contest winners. Here at Illinois, you’re already halfway there! It’ll be tough, but creativity can help. Everyone knows Brian Urlacher doesn’t have college eligibility left, but what about his dashing brother … Rian Urlacher? This fellow has the windswept coif of a just-born baby. That just can’t be Brian. Brian didn’t have hair.
Seriously, don’t even worry about offense
Remember Rex Grossman? You made the Super Bowl with him, and he was physically incapable of attempting a short pass. Sexy Rexy’s throws were like flights before the Wright Brothers era. They went for 60 yards, were in the air 11 seconds and then something awful happened. But a pro quarterback’s stupidity is simply a college kid’s confidence. Tell your quarterbacks if they want that starting job, they need to reach Urbana with a throw from Champaign.
You probably don’t need to care about offense
Big Ten fans appreciate hard-mouth, smash-teeth football, and Illini fans will absolutely appreciate low-scoring games because they aren’t aware high-scoring ones exist. So win over converts and foes alike with inspiration and intimidation. Regale the student body with the story of how you made it in Chicago. Ninety percent of the North Side is made up of Big Ten graduates who couldn’t bear the thought of returning to their hometowns, just like your student section now. To push past other teams, you could pay coach Dennis Green $50 a pop to give that “They Are Who We Thought They Were” speech before every game. And to keep any mouthy boosters on their toes, bring back Tank Johnson and have him carry his assault weapons on the sideline. Protect that house.
While you did excel at living in Chicago, living in Illinois means you’ll have to recalibrate to fit in. So dive into that tradition to really be a part of that I-L-L, I-N-I. Like Chief Illiniwek, a totally non-offensive depiction of Native Americans replete with mid-air splits and performed for eight decades by precisely zero students with Native heritage! The university retired Chief Illiniwek under NCAA financial threat in 2007, but for some silly reason, the Chief keeps showing up at homecoming parades and unofficial events. Lucky you to get to deal with that!
Offense will be tricky
You’ll need time to build your dream mediocre attack, so maybe blame former coordinator Bill Cubit in the meantime. Interim head coach Cubit was given a full contract from an also interim athletic director, and he’s none too popular, because that’s like finding out the neighbor you asked to housesit sold your furniture to pay for the house she bought in your name.
Have fun, Lovie!
There’s an orange-and-blue lining to any cloud. Champaign-Urbana is beautiful, in a Windows desktop kind of way. It’s near Danville. Memorial Stadium is a bit like a spaceship-less Soldier Field. I’ve heard there’s some frozen yogurt in town, too. But most importantly, this new job will be stress-free. No more wasting your time with overpaid professional crybabies. As a college coach, you can mold your charges by screaming whatever you want at 19-year-olds, and no one questions it! When they meet you, they’ll be underpaid amateur young men, waiting for your guidance to become overpaid professional crybabies.
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