This year's surprise firing in the NFL is Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith. The Bears failed to make the playoffs in 2012, and in five of the last six seasons. That's why Smith, who made the Super Bowl at the end of the 2006 season and the NFC championship game at the end of the 2010 campaign, will be looking for work elsewhere.
NFL.com's Ian Rapoport was the first to report the news. FOX Sports.com's Jay Glazer reports that the Bears have already asked permission to interview Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy for the open position.
Smith, who posted an 80-63 regular-season mark since 2004, and a 3-3 record in the postseason, had just three losing records in his tenure with the organization -- 5-11 in his first season, and two 7-9 seasons.
General manager Phil Emery, hired in January of 2012, was told by Bears ownership that he would have Smith as his head coach this season, but that things could change.
"Lovie has said there's pressure every year to win. That's just a fact of life in the NFL," team chairman George McCaskey said in July. "We told Phil when he came in that Lovie had to be the coach in 2012. He accepted that condition. We also told him that he would have the freedom to make a change if he thought it was necessary after 2012."
The move is questionable at best, in our opinion, and we're not alone. Chicago football legend Mike Ditka doesn't like it one bit.
"I think Lovie is a very good coach," Ditka told ESPN Radio on Monday. "Everybody is a little bit different in their manner. I think that's a 10-win season. They started 7-1. This team, there's a reason they lost some games in between. A lot of the wins they got in the 7-1 run were because of turnovers by the defense were turned into points. The offense didn't score enough points in those other games. That's the bottom line.
"If Minnesota would have lost last night and the Bears were in the playoffs this wouldn't have happened. That's a fact. So how stupid is it then? It really is stupid ... the organization doesn't need turning around like a lot of the other ones. If they want to get back to the Super Bowl, you're going to have to have the right players. Don't ask me how you get through the season without key injuries. No one hits anybody anymore, then they go out on Sunday and get hurt. What the hell do you expect?"
We agree with the Mighty Ditka.
Smith kept things going on the field as former general manager Jerry Angelo made a series of questionable personnel decisions, and a series of offensive coordinators -- most notably Mike Tice and Mike Martz -- made offensive line continuity and quarterback protection nearly impossible. Quarterback Jay Cutler, who Angelo traded a host of pick to the Denver Broncos for in 2009, has been erratic even at the best of times, and the team's defense -- always Smith's trademark -- has been among the best in the league through his tenure.
"As far as my expectations, it's the same as I put on myself," Emery said before the season. "I said this when I first came in, we expect to be experts at our given jobs. And our goal is excellence and coming together to win championships, and that's my expectations -- to make steady progress towards those goals.
"I consider this a team that has goals. And we want to make progress towards those goals daily and weekly, every Sunday, towards those goals. And I want to know where that direction is. It won't be Week 1, Week 2. It'll be at the end of the season. I want to know what the direction of our team is daily and weekly toward attaining our goals, and that's how I'll determine it. Are we achieving excellence? Are we moving towards our goals or not?"
Well, Emery now has an opening. The question is, can he find someone to answer his own questions?
Related NFL video from Yahoo! Sports
Other popular content on the Yahoo! network:
• Megatron finishes 36 yards short of 2,000 for the season
• Texas QB David Ash could lift Longhorns back to prominence
• Cain Velasquez shows dominance in UFC 155 | Slideshow
• Y! News: Assault weapons ban on the way?