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No one in Chicago longing for return of coach Lovie Smith

Lovie Smith's beginning with the Buccaneers has been a rocky one

It's a pity Sunday's Bears-Buccaneers showdown can't be resolved like a Brandon Marshall Twitter war.

A ring, some gloves, $25,000 in prize money to the winner and 100 hours of community service to the loser. Lovie Smith and Marc Trestman mano-a-mano in the middle of Soldier Field like Dempsey and Tunney back in 1927. Who can forget the Long Count fight and why is it that clock operation and time management issues have been a problem at Soldier Field for so many years?

Maybe a duel between two middle-aged men isn't enough. How about general manager Phil Emery and Bucs counterpart Jason Licht join their coaches and make it a tag team steel cage wrestling match?

Emery and Licht were the finalists for the GM job back when Smith was entering what turned out to be his final year. The Bears went 10-6, but failed to make the playoffs. Smith was fired and Trestman was hired over Bruce Arians.

Smith sat out a season before taking the Bucs job Jan. 7. Then he was instrumental in the hiring of Licht two weeks later, a guy he met when he interviewed him for the Bears job. Remember, part of the Bears GM job description at the time was working with Smith, so the coach sat down with both Emery and Licht. Emery got the job, and eventually fired Smith.

It would be fun to think of Emery as a conniving, plotting schemer who stuck Smith with a terrible offensive line and a hand-picked tight end who could do everything but play. Devious Phil, the man who let his coach cut just enough rope for a public hanging, sounds like a dangerous guy. Maybe even a guy shrewd and cunning enough to run a football team. Perhaps a guy Smith holds a grudge against.

Sadly, if Smith has revenge in his heart and plans on serving it up cold Sunday, it's too little too late.

Smith, you see, already has lost. Eight games this year to be exact. If the coach brought the Bucs into Soldier Field with an 8-2 record instead of 2-8 it would be him that fans were harrumphing about and not Arians.

Lovie had a chance to make the Bears regret dumping him, but regardless of the results Sunday there will be no remorse. Not after you see his offense take the field, even with stud first-round pick Mike Evans and former Bears nice guy and quarterback seat-holder Josh McCown.

Smith never seemed to get the offense right with the Bears and that certainly has been the case for the Bucs as his coordinator, former Cal coach Jeff Tedford, underwent heart surgery at the end of the preseason and will not return this year. Interim coordinator Marcus Arroyo is a 34-year-old pressed into emergency duty in his first NFL season.

There isn't much you can do when a key staff member has such a problem, but it's remarkable the Bucs were caught with so little experience behind him.

Problems with the play-caller aside, the personnel decisions have been pretty disastrous. Smith opted to get rid of four of the five starting linemen from a season ago, and while far from stars, all remain starters in the NFL. And Donald Penn (Raiders), Davin Joseph (Rams), Ted Larsen (Cardinals) and Jeremy Zuttah (Ravens) are far from the only former Bucs making contributions to other teams.

Darrelle Revis, who was cut for salary cap reasons is having a Pro Bowl season with the Patriots. Tight end Tim Wright had seven catches and a touchdown against the Bears for the Patriots. Strong safety Mark Barron, a former first-round pick, was traded to the Rams for a fourth-rounder and a sixth-rounder next year.

Maybe the fourth-rounder will help make up for the pick they gave the Patriots for guard Logan Mankins, who could be one-and-done because he carries a $6.5 million cap figure next year. A one-year solution at guard would be a lot to surrender for a pick that is currently in the top 100.

The Bucs also splashed big money on a pair of Bengals linemen, defensive end Michael Johnson and offensive tackle Anthony Collins. Curiously, both of the Bengals' coordinators from last season — Mike Zimmer and Jay Gruden — got head coaching jobs but didn't pursue either player in free agency.

Johnson has three sacks this season, or a half sack more than Jared Allen, but fellow Bucs defensive end Jacquies Smith, signed off the scrap heap, also has three in his last three games.

At least the Bucs got their act together on defense Sunday at Washington, producing six sacks and two picks of quarterback of for Robert Griffin III. Players said Smith showed them tape of Charles Tillman forcing fumbles and intercepting passes as inspiration to encourage takeaways. Maybe he will show them a tape of Jay Cutler throwing the ball to opponents to prepare them for Sunday.

Smith's half-baked rebuild may produce enough to ruin an afternoon in Chicago, but the Bears' season was spoiled long ago. Despite that, no one seems to lament the loss of Lovie.

Special contributor Mike Mulligan co-hosts "The Mully and Hanley Show" weekdays from 5-9 a.m. on WSCR-AM 670.

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