General manager Phil Emery said after the Bears 26-24 win over the Detroit Lions that the decision on retaining or rejecting Lovie Smith for 2013 would be based on Smiths body of work.That could have been taken two ways.One is that Smith had in nine years gotten the Bears to the playoffs just three times, and only once in the past six. The goal of an organization is to win championships, the immutable first step toward that is reaching playoffs and Smith had not achieved that crucial objective.The fact that the Bears posted winning records in two (2008, 2012) of the five miss seasons and .500 in a third (2011) was a secondary consideration.The other take on Smiths body of work was that since his initial 2004 season, Smith has had just two losing seasons, no fewer than seven wins in any of his last eight and a career record 18 games over .500 (81-63).The bad outweighed the good in the end, according to multiple sources, with Smith fired Monday morning after the Minnesota Vikings defeated the Green Bay Packers to slip past the Bears into the playoffs.The first inkling came when ESPNs Adam Schefter tweeted that the Bears had sent out forms requesting permission to interview assistants with other NFL teams.The news points to the Bears looking first and fast at current pro coaches ahead of college prospects.
Every Thursday night, Bears defensive backs try to all get together at Tracy Porter’s house for dinner. But it’s not about the food.
"None of us can cook," said cornerback Bryce Callahan, laughing.
At the risk of channeling some inner Marc Trestman, it’s about the get-together itself, which always involves popping on some game film and doing extra study beyond the time at Halas Hall. And it’s also building something off the field that they believe they can take onto it.
One of the keys to excellence in any working group is the individuals connecting in ways that make the whole greater than just the sum of the parts. That’s the point ultimately, taking some personal connections onto the field and making the entire defensive backfield collectively better.
Relationships among players have never been recorded as intercepting or even deflecting an NFL pass.
"For me it starts off the field, getting to know one another, how that person is," said cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc, familiar with a similar internal chemistry from his time with the New England Patriots.
"You get that feeling for every individual, and you take that on the field. It creates a close bond, and we’ve got that bond. We try to look through each other’s eyes, communicate what you were thinking and he was thinking on this play or that, and that’s the biggest thing."
Offensive lines are generally thought of as the group most benefited by camaraderie and closeness. They typically have an O-line dinner most weeks, with checks for the meal not uncommonly reaching into four-figures.
"Those boys can EAT," LeBlanc marveled. "We stick to wings or ribs."
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But the secondary consists of four individuals rotating coverages the way a line moves with different protections or assignments. Double-teams in the defensive backfield require the same cohesion and familiarity as ones on the other side of the football.
The Bears have started the same base four defensive backs in all three games — Porter and Jacoby Glenn at the corners, Adrian Amos and Harold Jones-Quartey at the safeties — but the Bears are working in multiple rookies, and Callahan (hamstring) has been inactive along with Kyle Fuller, projected to be the starter at right corner but now on IR. Rookie safety Deon Bush was inactive the first two weeks, then played at Dallas. Rookie corner Deiondre’ Hall was pressed into action on defense for 18 plays at Houston and 28 against Philadelphia.
With the in-game mixes-and-matches necessitated by injuries, the familiarity among secondary members is looked at as nothing short of vital. Comments, right or wrong, from a friend can be taken better/more constructively than ones from a relative stranger.
"Just more of being ready to pick each other up, be ready," Amos said. "It just shows you how quick you can go from scout team to on the field, so everybody has to be talking together.
"The closer we are on and off the field, the better we are together."
"We talk to each other like friends, in a unit, trying to dissect a play right after it happens, rewind and see how we can to it better.
"You can’t be out here trying to communicate and you don’t even really know the guy next to you."
The official injury designation is “doubtful” but Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is unofficially expected to be out of Sunday’s game with the Detroit Lions after not practicing on Thursday or Friday due to his injured right thumb.
“It is a pretty critical area on the quarterback, especially when it's your right thumb and you're a right handed quarterback,” Bears head coach John Fox said. “So you know we're going to get him healthy and that's our main objective and we'll see if he's any further along [Saturday].”
The designation — “questionable” — was brighter for wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, except for the mild surprise that he was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday with a knee issue and then was limited on Friday because of a hamstring.
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Jeffery missed six games last season, two separate instances, because of hamstring problems.
Besides Cutler, running backs Ka’Deem Carey (hamstring) and Jeremy Langford (ankle), nose tackle Eddie Goldman (ankle) and linebacker Danny Trevathan (thumb) also did not practice and are listed as doubtful. Carey, Cutler, Goldman and Trevathan all were inactive in Dallas, and Langford suffered his ankle sprain against the Cowboys.
Limited but listed as questionable: guard Josh Sitton (shoulder), outside linebacker Willie Young (knee); and defensive backs Sherrick McManis (hamstring), Tracy Porter (knee) and Harold Jones-Quartey (concussion, cleared).