Monday, Jan. 3, 2011
By John Mullin
It wasnt immediately clear Monday whether Lovie Smith was addressing the media, his supporters, general fans, his critics (some crossover there, obviously), or Bears management. Probably all of them.
Smith will not be among the coaching casualties this season, not after an 11-5 season and return to the playoffs after three seasons of only 16 games. Wade Phillips in Dallas, Minnesotas Brad Childress, Mike Singletary in San Francisco, Eric Mangini in Cleveland (after exactly two seasons), and quite likely Tom Cable in Oakland, Miamis Tony Sparano and John Fox in Carolina, Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati.
A year ago there was no doubt that Smith was returning for 2010 but make no mistake: 2011 was very much in question. Now 2011 is set, has been for quite some time, and best guess is that Smith will receive an extension, possibly of two years beyond 2011, if the Bears reach the Super Bowl.
That may not happen until labor issues are closer to resolution. But even that began breaking in Smiths favor Monday when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to 5 million fans declaring, I know we can and will reach an agreement.
So it wasnt at all surprising that Smith was visibly comfortable not only with the podium at which he was standing, again, and with the prospects of being there for more than just an annual, year-to-year referendum on his coaching.
Its where Ive been standing for seven years so I dont know what else to say, Smith said. Ive been in this position a few years. I love being here and plan on being here for a long time.
And more than once he gave his No. 1 reason, indirectly addressing what President Ted Phillips set forth as the franchises demand of Smith for 2010, that the team be moving significantly in the right direction.
In Smiths mind, it absolutely has been and is:
the guys have showed up each week, he said, which speaks to coaching preparedness, and were a good defensive team like were a good football team.
Talking about whether there are teams he would like or not like to play in the postseason (there are), the good football team theme was there again.
Were a good football team, Smith said. This time of the year, the teams that are in the playoffs are good football teams. The match-up is pretty good, pretty balanced no matter who you play.
Mondays after final regular-season games arent especially upbeat in general when you look around the NFL and see the coaching careers that are hearing the snap of the gallows. No matter how inevitable it is or how obvious the changes might be, its never a truly happy day when someone loses a job. (Those of us whove gone through it can relate.)
So can Lovie Smith, who a year ago took his place over the trap door when his team missed the playoffs for the third straight year and a fourth was very likely going to be his last in Chicago. He and his team responded with their 11-5 performance.
Youre not happy about that, Smith said. In any profession, youre not happy about anyone losing their job. Anyone with a family, providing for their family, losing their job. But in our profession we realize whats at stake when we come in. Its pretty simple. Its about wins and losses. In the end it comes down to that and we all realize that.
There will be some good football coaches that will lose their jobs but there will be good football coaches thatll get other jobs too. To make it this far and be leading an NFL franchise, its saying quite a bit about yourself. Thats part of the profession, the business and we know it.
After my weekly visit with central Illinois on WFMB-AM SportsRadio 1450 this afternoon at 4:40, Ill join Kap and Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet at 5:30 and then finish off with our regular Monday on-line chat on CSNChicago.com, this week at 7:15 p.m. instead of 7. Looking forward to some football bidness.
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.