Here's my favorite story from my five years covering Lovie Smith:
During the postgame press conference that followed a particularly horrific performance by the often-horrible Rex Grossman, the media found four different ways to ask Smith why he didn't switch to Brian Griese, the high-priced QB the Bears had acquired just in case Rex got hurt or got bad.
Four times, Lovie dismissed the questions: Rex was his quarterback; the Bears were 10-2; we were morons.
This is what happened next, as chronicled in my Dec. 7, 2006 column:
My brain was about ready to explode. Because I need my brain to think about food, Jack Bauer's plight on "24," golf, Scarlett Johansson and other worthwhile subjects, I could sit silently no longer.
Me: "You did win 10 games with (Kyle) Orton as your quarterback last year and made a change. So, I mean, it's not unprecedented ... "
Lovie, interrupting: "This year ... "
Me, interrupting right back: "I understand that. I understand. It's not an unprecedented thought, that's all. We're not coming out of thin air with this thought."
Lovie: "That doesn't mean a lot to me, though. I'm telling you what I'm going to do. Right now, we're 10-2 with Rex as our quarterback. THAT's not unprecedented."
He might as well have come back with: "Your momma's not unprecedented!" That would have made as much sense.
Too funny, eh?
I rarely had public debates with those I covered, but that day, I simply couldn't take Lovie's crapola any more.
Tom Landry and Chuck Noll and Bill Parcells and John Madden and countless other championship coaches throughout the years had benched ineffective quarterbacks.
Don Shula benched Earl Morrall at halftime of the 1972 AFC title game -- even though the score was tied and even though Morrall had led the Dolphins to 11 straight wins in place of an injured Bob Griese during the team's perfect season.
Nevertheless, Lovie had so little respect for the media -- not to mention the millions of fans who were clamoring for a QB change -- that he considered us idiots for suggesting Lovie The Genius even consider removing Rex The Unbenchable during a bad performance.
Well, Lovie is now the ex-coach of the Bears.
His dwindling ranks of supporters say he didn't deserve to be canned because the team had played mostly decent football during his time in Chicago and because he led the Bears to only their second Super Bowl appearance ever -- a game they lost to the Colts partly because of the frighteningly bad play of Rex The Unbenchable.
The facts, however, sealed Lovie's fate.
Smith's team reached the playoffs only three times in nine seasons -- and only once in the past six years. Since losing to the Colts in the '07 Super Bowl, Lovie's lads won one division title while finishing third three times and last once.
Lovie always said beating the Packers was No. 1 on the list of things the Bears had to do. Since Jan. 2, 2011, the Bears were 0-6 against the Packers, including a loss in last year's playoffs.
The Bears opened this season 7-1 but folded as soon as the schedule turned tough, dropping five of their next six games. What seemed a sure playoff berth was gone, and even wins in their last two games couldn't save Smith's Bears ... or Smith's job.
Like Rex in the Super Bowl, Lovie couldn't deliver.
Unlike Rex in the Super Bowl, Lovie got benched.
There will be much debate about which players deserve which awards in the NFL, but one thing is obvious:
John Elway is the Executive of the Year.
Despite immense public pressure to build around the inexplicably popular Tim Tebow, Elway traded the most overhyped player in recent NFL history to the Jets and brought in Peyton Manning.
Manning threw for 37 TDs and the Broncos ended up with the NFL's best record at 13-3. Tebow couldn't even get on the field for the Jets.
Elway, one of the 10 best QBs ever to lace up cleats, knows Manning belongs on that list, too. Elway also knows Tebow is a train wreck of a quarterback, with neither the physical ability nor mental acumen to play the most important position at the highest level.
Meanwhile, were there an award for Incompetent Executive of the Year, it would go to the Jets brain trust of owner Woody Johnson and GM Mike Tannenbaum.
After signing overrated Mark Sanchez to a contract extension, they wasted a fourth-round draft pick to bring the distracting Tebow Circus to New York. Sanchez fell apart, Jets coach Rex Ryan realized in training camp that Tebow couldn't play and never used him during the season, and what was supposed to be a contending team finished 6-10.
Tannenbaum was fired Monday, in part because the owner couldn't fire himself.