Angelo: No decision on Lovie's long-term future

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Angelo: No decision on Lovie's long-term future

Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011
2:28 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The inescapable other shoe that comes to mind when word of Miami offering Jim Harbaugh 8 million to coach the Dolphins is whether or not that will drive the Bears to get a contract extension done with Lovie Smith before the bar for coaches who actually have done something in the NFL spirals upwards on the Bears.

General Manager Jerry Angelo and the Bears aren't going to be rushed. Angelo isnt ruling out adding years to the one more Smith has on his deal, but Smith already is at 5.5 million and the Bears arent desperate, like the Miami Dolphins are.

Desperateness drives people to do things they maybe normally wouldnt have done, Angelo said Thursday. Its a supply and demand business but we dont let that rule our thinking. We can only look at what we do, our parameters, how we build and how we go forward with our philosophy...

Well have a plan in place when the time comes.

But the specter of a work stoppage has frozen some teams planning, it was a factor in Smith being brought back for the 2010 season, and the Bears simply have no reason in the current market to extend a contract already in the upper echelon of coaching salaries.

After describing the current Bears team as not the most talented but the best team hes had, Angelo put on hold any public declaration of direction with respect to Smiths situation.

That is understandable and the right course. Angelo created a mess for himself when he said late in the 2001 season that he and the Bears would be working to extend the contract of Dick Jauron. While that may have been a strategy to make any subsequent impasse appear to be on Jauron, it also committed to the Bears to a course that became distasteful for them after the Bears proceeded to lose in the divisional playoff round following a bye week.

The indication now is that the Bears will wait at least until after the playoffs before moving, or not, on Smith.

The one thing weve done a pretty job of and I know its clich-ish but clichs are there for a reason we have really focused on each and every week, Angelo said. I think thats critical in football. Weve really stayed that course and we will continue to stay that course. When the seasons over, and hopefully thats not going to be for a while, then we will address all those things.

We always do what you need to do to take care of your business and Im going to leave it at that. Right now our focus is on this upcoming game and finishing the job.

Lovie performance appraisal

Smith in all likelihood was gone if the Bears had not reached this postseason or at least turned in a playoff-grade record where it was no fault of their own that they did not reach the playoffs.

But along with the 11-5 record, Smith restored something important for the organization.

In our business, its all about credibility and I felt we lost some credibility, Angelo said. We did. It just goes with the territory. We werent getting the job done.

But in terms of how I felt about Lovie, how I feel about the staff, Ive always felt good about that. But the bottom line is the bottom line. Youve got to win football games; youve got to win your division. That s what creates credibility. Its not personality. Its not how I feel about anybody. That is the bottom line. And thats how credibility is. Its not a testament to your character, its a testament to your wins and youve got to win football games and we all understand that.

What about you, Jerry?

At least one report has circulated that Angelo himself would step down from his post after this season, particularly if the finish comes with a Super Bowl ring. Not so.

I dont know why thats important to anybody, Angelo said. Ive heard it; its no big deal. The only one thats happy to hear that is my wife. But thats not going to happen. Im very fortunate to be here and as long as Im blessed with health, Ill continue to do what I love and thats being part of football.

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.

John Fox, Vic Fangio nix report of rift in Bears coaching ranks

John Fox, Vic Fangio nix report of rift in Bears coaching ranks

Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was game-planning for the Detroit Lions on Wednesday morning when he got a visit from his boss. A story had appeared that Fangio and coach John Fox were at odds to the point where Fangio was planning on leaving the Bears at the end of this season.

“I wasn't aware of [the story] and he told me about it because he was all nervous about it,” Fangio said. “So I said 'Don't worry about it… . [Fox was nervous] because it wasn't true and thought I might take it the wrong way.”

The Bears have more than enough to worry about, taking their 3-9 record to Detroit to face the streaking Lions. A looming staff upheaval could send the remainder of the season into a total collapse given that in this case, for instance, Fangio is very popular with his players.

Fangio said expressly that he plans on being back for 2017. Fox added his own staff statement.

“Well, I think when you spend as much time as we do as coaches, I think we get along great,” Fox said of Fangio and himself. “I want our whole staff back. Now, whether that proves to be a reality or not, things happen.”

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The surprise would be if the Bears 3-9 situation were without some tension. Linebacker Pernell McPhee verbally went after quarterback Jay Cutler earlier this season after the latter threw a costly interception. And whole units have had reason to harbor unkind thoughts about each other.

Fangio’s defense has maintained respectability through its injuries and even improved through the season. Their efforts have not always been rewarded by complimentary success or apparent game plans by the offense.

Conversely, the offense gave the defense a 13-point lead to start the fourth quarter against Jacksonville and the Jaguars won 17-16. The Bears led the Indianapolis Colts 23-19 midway through the fourth quarter and lost. The Bears led Houston 14-10 after three quarters and lost.

Still, “I think our staff is tremendous,” Fox said. “I think right now, if you flashback two years ago this defense was 32nd in the league; right now it is seventh. I think you even look at offensively, similar numbers even from a year ago. We were 24th. This offense is 16th. So with going on our fourth quarterback, I couldn’t be more proud of our staff. I’ll just leave it at I am very, very pleased with our staff.”

The standard for Bears evaluating Matt Barkley? Use what John Fox uses

The standard for Bears evaluating Matt Barkley? Use what John Fox uses

The play of Matt Barkley in the past two games catapulted the previously dismissed young quarterback deep into the Great Bears Quarterback Debate (GBQD), which may not be a particularly exclusive confab, but it does mean that Barkley has gone from castoff to contender for a job somewhere beyond this season. And one particular aspect of his game is the key to what has transpired, as well as what happens going forward.

The law of averages suggests that Barkley will put up a clunker at some point, maybe even more than one. Then again, maybe not. Of the four remaining defenses (Detroit, Green Bay, Washington, Minnesota), only the Vikings rank in the top 10 defensively in either points or yardage allowed through the first 13 weeks of the 2016 season. So Barkley won’t exactly be looking at a Murderer’s Row of the ’85 Bears, ’76 Steelers, ’00 Ravens and ’15 Broncos.

But there’s a bigger Barkley picture that serves as the real framework for evaluating whether or not he’s truly got the right stuff, regardless of whom he faces.

It is not what he’s done – getting his team in position to win in consecutive fourth quarters. It’s what he hasn’t done – turn the football over.

The measure of Barkley, as it was with Jay Cutler and Brian Hoyer, will be ball security. In a FoxWorld, that is axiomatic.

The second question to Fox after Sunday’s game was on Barkley’s performance. Fox’s mindset was evident in his answer: “He improved,” Fox began, followed immediately by, “He eliminated any interceptions.”

Barkley’s huge leap forward has indeed come, not with his TD passes (including the should-have-been ones), but with his control of the football.

Barkley may have been undone with drops against Tennessee. But he undercut his team with two appalling red-zone interceptions, one in the end zone.

After the interception on the Bears’ opening second-half possession, which turned into Titans points, Barkley proceeded to throw his next 33 passes without a pick. Then against San Francisco, Barkley stayed INT-free on 19 dropbacks (18 passes, one sack). The result was a season-high for Bears points and a win.

Barkley threw two interceptions in his emergency step-in for Hoyer at Green Bay. Given his situation there, no real surprise, and rightfully not a referendum on his quarterbacking.

But consider:

Before his broken arm against the Packers, Hoyer played his way into the GBQD less with his weekly 300-yard passing production than with his 200 pass attempts without an interception. Cutler, in his truncated season, revealed a regression from his step-forward ’15 and its ball security, sliding back up to an interception percentage in the unacceptable mid-3’s where it’s been for his career. This was the prove-it year for Cutler and he rendered ’15 as the exception, not a career turning point.

Barkley’s accuracy in the Soldier Field conditions last Sunday was exceptional. Not only did he not throw interceptions (which is how to earn a 97.5 passer rating), but also repeatedly put footballs where either his guy or nobody was catching them. Too often certain of his guys didn’t catch them, but that’s not on Barkley, who stayed with Josh Bellamy in a team-building statement.

Only the Vikings (No. 5) among the final four Bears opponents have interception percentages ranked better than 14th. Washington (95.0), Detroit (101.9) and Green Bay (102.1) are allowing egregious opponent-quarterback passer ratings (the Bears are at 94.3). Meaning: Barkley will have opportunities to stay his ball-security course against beatable defenses.

The inability of the Bears defense to generate takeaways is a significant 2016 storyline. But the ability of the Bears offense – specifically their quarterbacks – to hold onto the football is a potential tipping point in the most significant position-decision for the franchise.