Smith, Carroll relaxed heading into matchup

Smith, Carroll relaxed heading into matchup

Friday, Jan. 14, 2011
3:06 p.m.

By John Mullin

There may be some underlying angst in Seattle or Chicago about Sundays game between the Bears and Seahawks. But it doesnt appear to involve the opposing coaches.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll opened up a cell phone and took a mock call when a media phone went off during a press conference this week.

Lovie Smith can be inscrutable, enigmatic, (your adjective here). But on Friday, after finishing off the final day of practice before the divisional-round game Sunday, relaxed might not even depict his mood.

Lets do this again next week, Smith suggested as the media gathering broke up.

Next week would of course refer to the final day of preparation for the NFC Championship game, the third such game for which Smith would be preparing. He was the defensive coordinator for the 2001 St. Louis Rams team that began with a bye week and went on to win the conference championship. He coached the Bears past Seattle in 2006 and on to a conference championship.

This time...

While Smith and the Bears can ill afford to look beyond the heavy underdog Seahawks, an inevitable thought strayed into who the Bears might like to win Saturday night when the Green Bay Packers go against the Falcons in Atlanta.

Who's playing? Smith deadpanned. I know about that game Sunday.

Assuming the Bears get past Seattle: If the Packers win, the Bears host the NFC title game, as they did in 2006. If Atlanta wins, the Bears go to the Georgia Dome.

So really it doesn't matter, Smith said. "Of course you'd love to play another playoff game at home Green Bay. But if we have to go on the road, you might as well go inside to play. We're a fast football team, so it doesn't really matter.

If you believe in theater omens, however, this might not have been a good one.

Bad dress rehearsal, good opening night is a timeless performers bromide. The Bears have had a succession of good rehearsals (the NFL calls them practices), so does that mean?

I know it's kind of coach talk, but we really have a great week of practice, Smith said. You expect that when you play a game like this. Guys can't wait to play. We're healthy and we feel like we have a good game plan, playing at home in the elements, everything you look for this time of the year.

We have to play better than we did last time. They deserved to win that football game. Normally you don't get a second chance. We need to make the most of our second chance.

The not-new kid

Carroll edged into his job in the nick of time this year, both on the college and NFL levels. He got out of USC before the firestorm of allegations, violations and sanctions engulfed him and the program. And he snagged a five-year contract to coach the Seahawks averaging a reported 6.5 million a season. This years hires, with the exception of Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco, are netted about half that.

Carroll is far from an NFL newbie. He took the 1997 New England Patriots (slaughtering a Rick Mirer-led Bears team 31-3 along the way) to a wild-card win after a failed one-year stint with the New York Jets in 1994.

He looks young but hes the second-oldest coach in the NFL, said quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Hes an old-school guy and most of his talks to the team go back to guys like John Wooden or Bud Grant or people he played with or coached with. Stories that none of us hardly remember...

I dont see him as a college coach. I know he spent the last nine years at USC as a college coach but I see him as a long-time NFL coach who happened to go to USC to perfect his coaching style, and he was able to do it.

John "Moon" Mullin is'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.

Vikings handling of Sam Bradford offers object lesson for Bears transition to next QB

Vikings handling of Sam Bradford offers object lesson for Bears transition to next QB

Call it variations on a theme. The Bears on Monday night will face not only the Minnesota Vikings, but also Sam Bradford, the latest quarterback opponent that hints at possibilities in the Bears’ own future far beyond what was once the norm.

That norm is what can reasonably be expected from a new quarterback, one coming into a new system, new environment, even a new league, and having near-immediate success. Quarterback changes can involve upheaval of staff, personnel and even franchise identity, as the Bears can confirm based on their last eight years with Jay Cutler.

The experiences in Dallas, Minnesota and Philadelphia point to the kinds of quarterback transitions the Bears may be in search of after the 2016 season.

Bradford arrived in Minnesota via trade just eight days before the season opener, yet has proceeded to post the best results of his career: for completion percentage (67.5), interception percentage (0.6 percent; 7 TD’s vs. 1 INT), yards per attempt (7.4) and rating (100.3, vs. a previous best of 90.9).

More important, without the Vikings’ starting left tackle (Matt Kalil) and running back (Adrian Peterson), Bradford has the Vikings leading the NFC North and tied for the NFC lead at 5-1.

“[The Vikings] had the misfortune of losing their quarterback, they go out and make a bold move to get him and they haven’t missed a beat offensively,” said Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. “He’s been getting better and better.”

This all holds particular relevance for the Bears, who saw Brian Hoyer step in and deliver four straight 300-yard passing games, something he’d never done in his career and no quarterback in Bears franchise history had done. Cutler’s personal best was two straight, for purposes of comparison.

The Bears are expected to have a new quarterback in some form or other next year. In the meantime they have been victimized by two rookie quarterbacks already this season (Carson Wentz, Philadelphia, and Dak Prescott, Dallas). The experience of Bradford, Prescott and Wentz, all new in 2017 to their situations, suggests chances of dramatic improvement over the Bears’ recent history with Cutler, for example.

“A good quarterback can influence the guys and make guys around him better,” Wentz said. “So it’s one of those things where the quarterback usually gets too much credit and too much of the blame as well. It’s just kind of the nature of the position.”

Prescott and Wentz were 2016 draft choices and had offseasons and training camps with their respective teams. Bradford had none of that, yet began his year throwing 130 passes without an interception.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

How that happens may be illustrative for the 2017 Bears. The Vikings traded for Bradford, a one-time starter for the Rams and Eagles. But because of the late-offseason timing of the deal, necessitated by the season-ending leg injury for Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, Bradford had to be eased into the new offense.

“I think that’s honestly one of the bonuses of coming during the regular season,” Bradford said on Thursday. “Obviously it would’ve been nice to have some practices in training camp. But once you get into the regular season, it’s not like you have the whole playbook in each game plan. Each game plan is very specific for that week’s opponent, so it’s considerably less than would be in your training-camp installs.

“So I think that helped a little bit. But as far as it being cut down, the volume wasn’t so much cut down as how the plays were called, naming some concepts with some things I was familiar with. That really helped me.”

Bears Talk Podcast: Jay Cutler returns against one of NFL's best defenses


Bears Talk Podcast: Jay Cutler returns against one of NFL's best defenses

Jim Miller joins Pat Boyle as they discuss the return of Jay Cutler as he gets ready to face one of the toughest defense’s in football. Plus, the key to a Bears win on Halloween night.

Listen to the latest Bears Talk Podcast here: