Does Sunday's win save Lovie's job?

969025.png

Does Sunday's win save Lovie's job?

GLENDALE, Ariz. The real question lurking underneath the Bears 28-13 victory over the Arizona Cardinals may not be whether or not it ultimately gets the Bears into the playoffs. It could have advanced that, if the Bears defeat the Detroit Lions next Sunday and the Green Bay Packers are kind enough to dispose of the Minnesota Vikings.

More important for the longer run is how the performance is weighed and assessed by decision-makers at Halas Hall visavis Lovie Smiths future.

Did the game in Arizona help or hurt Lovie Smiths chances of remaining Bears head coach for 2013?

Right now the answer isyes. More on that in a moment.

Considerations

Understand the full process here, because it has not played out yet and wont until after next Sunday in Detroit. Scenarios have been considered, just like mock drafts, and the what-ifs weighed, but nothing is settled one way or the other.

Various individuals tell CSNChicago.com that Virginia McCaskey has been involved in decisions such as retaining Smith last year and will be a voice in the room again.

Of course she will. Shes on the board of directors and she is ownership. She is a non-meddling owner as well, so she is not going to dictate. Thats not her style.

But she will be among those who will rightly want a full and clear explanation of why Smith should be fired. If it is the conclusion of GM Phil Emery or anyone else that a change is needed, that case will have to be made and made convincingly. This is not one persons call.

In other words, some very important names on the Bears masthead will need to be conclusively sold that the head coach is the major problem and impediment to franchise success.

Smith is held in very high regard by Mrs. McCaskey and the organization overall for that matter. Hes brought credit to the organization, if not enough of it to satisfy some, and has represented Bear football admirably in their eyes.

Of course, some of the same could have been said about Jerry Angelo, too, and he was abruptly escorted from his job and the building after 11 years. Dick and Gail Jauron were thought of very highly by board members.

The Bears wont necessarily owe Smith 6 million if they choose to fire him. NFL coaching contracts typically call for the remaining amount to be mitigated by the salary of a subsequent job. If Smith leaves and is hired as an NFL head coach for, say, 5 million, the Bears owe the difference, the 1 million.

Which way trending?

Money wont be a significant element in the discussion, as it was a year ago when the amount at risk was 11 million. But other on-field aspects will be.

Organizations evaluate in large part based on where they project a situation leading. Smith could be 18 games over .500 for his Chicago career with a 10-6 finish, and firing someone with a 10-6 record is not the norm.

More important, however, is how Phil Emery and the board of directors perceive the Bears trend line. The Bears could not hold the Seattle game because the defense, Smiths forte, was put on roller skates for two touchdown drives totaling near 200 yards at the end of regulation and early overtime.

Emery got Smith the receiving firepower requested, with the trade for Brandon Marshall and drafting of Alshon Jeffery. Will Emery and the organization be satisfied with what Smith and his offensive staff have done with what they were given?

And the tipping point is whether or not the gap has been closed between the Bears and Green Bay Packers.

But the defense rose up against the inferior Arizona Cardinals and you are left to wonder how much weight the evaluation process will place on the defense holding that team to 248 yards.

Or the offense failing to top 300 yards for the fifth time in the last seven.

Or special teams giving up a touchdown and putting the offense in a hole with a botched punt return.

It will all be taken into account. If you dont like Lovie Smith, the sometimes-balky performance is one more reason to fire him.

If you think he should get at least the last year on his deal, the play of Julius Peppers and others says you wait until after the Detroit game to decide.

That has always been the Bears way, in any case.

Fire putting finishing touches on roster as season nears

Fire putting finishing touches on roster as season nears

The preseason has finished and it's officially a match week for the Chicago Fire.

The Fire, which travel to Columbus on Saturday for the season opener, returned from preseason training in Florida on Sunday and began the team's first full day back in Chicago with the team's annual kickoff luncheon on Monday. The team's players, coaches and staff interact with fans and the media ahead of the upcoming season.

Two players, UNC-Charlotte products Brandt Bronico and Matej Dekovic, were introduced to the audience a couple hours before the club announced the two 2017 draft picks had signed contracts. Bronico, a central midfielder drafted in the third round, and Dekovic, a center back/left back taken in the fourth round, both signed one-year deals with club options for the following three years.

Dekovic could add some much needed depth in central defense, but is a logical candidate to go out on loan to USL affiliate Tulsa. Dekovic, 23, is Croatian and counts as an international player even though he played three years collegiately with the 49ers. The Fire have nine international players on the roster with eight slots for them. The Fire could trade for an international slot, but if Dekovic goes out on loan he won't count against that number. Coach Veljko Paunovic was asked about potential outgoing loans, but didn't give specifics other than to say they have "made some decisions" and "are still working on that."

Bronico and Dekovic don't figure to play major roles this season, but there could still be more moves ahead. The lone trialist in the final week of the Fire's training camp, former Columbus Crew defender Chad Barson, was not retained. General manager Nelson Rodriguez said Ryan Taylor will be the latest right back to join the Fire on trial. Taylor, 32, made 55 English Premier League appearances with Wigan Athletic from 2005-2009 and 61 more with Newcastle United from 2009-2015. This season he has made 12 appearances for Port Vale in England's third tier, the most recent of which on Jan. 20 when he scored a penalty kick.

[RELATED: Fire players downplay importance of undefeated preseason record]

"Ryan Taylor will join us this week," Rodriguez said. "He's a very experienced player, he plays a lot of different positions, which we like. We like that versatility. We love the attitude that he's expressed towards coming on trial, which is not easy for an accomplished player. We'll look at him this week, maybe look at him for two weeks. I don't know how long it will take, but he is an option for us."

The Englishman would also take up an international slot.

A potentially bigger move is the one Rodriguez hinted at regarding a third designated player. Currently, David Accam and Nemanja Nikolic are the Fire's two DPs, meaning one more DP spot is available.

"We have the latitude, we have the cap space, the budget space and the resources within MLS and within our ownership to add another DP," Rodriguez said. "We've looked at a few players. Two of the players that we had on our list, we didn't make offers for so I want to be clear the two players we were tracking, one signed in Mexico with a big club in Mexico and one went to China for big money so they're off our list.

"There are still two players that we're tracking. I think as we get deeper into the start of the season, even though the first window is open, it's tougher. I would say we would likely look at the summer, or, as we did last year, forego the summer and concentrate on January. I still think it's hard to integrate players midseason."

Bobby Portis relishing his chance as starter

Bobby Portis relishing his chance as starter

A milk carton was a more likely place to find Bobby Portis than on a basketball floor playing big minutes for the majority of his second season.

He could often be found in the locker room before games and listening to the older players talk to the media afterward, trying his best to fight off the frustration and admitted confusion that comes with the regression of not getting playing time.

When Portis did play, he looked nothing like the confident and borderline cocky rookie who often referred to himself in the third person in interviews. He didn't know when he would play, how long he would be out there or even worse, what was expected of him.

The trade of Taj Gibson at the deadline — preceded by the temporary benching of Nikola Mirotic — put Portis back in the spotlight and he's intent on making the most of it during the last 23 games of the regular season.

"It's fun. You know go out there every day just to know that it's another day I'm going to play," Portis said. "That's the biggest thing for me. I feel like that's already a confidence builder right there, just coming into every game knowing that I'm in the rotation. It's great fun to go out there and play."

It's no secret the front office the Bulls want Portis to succeed and not add him to the ledger of some of the first-round disappointments that can be recalled in recent memory.

The trade of Gibson was certainly underlined with the mantra that Portis should play and the way was going to be cleared for Portis, one way or another. Scoring 19 with eight rebounds against the Celtics on national TV right before the All-Star break probably gave Portis enough validation considering he was thrust into the starting lineup at power forward soon after.

"I don't care about nobody judging me," Portis said. "At the end of the day I'm going to play basketball. That's my job. I'm going to go out there and do the things I do well. I feel like sometimes people misconstrue just because you don't play and they can say some things like that. I don't really care about anybody judging me at this point. At the end of the day I'm still going to be Bobby Portis at the end of the day."

Well, clearly, the third person thing hasn't left the second-year forward, but he said he stayed in the gym waiting on his opportunity, even through a quick but confusing stint to Hoffman Estates to the D-League.

"Just being hungry. Humble and hungry," Portis said. "You know one thing I always strive off of is being humble and hungry. That kept me sane. My mom, I talked to her a lot. She kept me grounded. It's kind of tough not playing and going through the season knowing that some games you might play, you might not play. You know it's about waiting your turn, but at the same time you have to keep working."

Being the fifth big in Fred Hoiberg's rotation didn't leave him a lot of room for Portis to get much run or even find a rhythm, and like many others who've found themselves out of the rotation unexpectedly, it was without much of an explanation.

"Nah, I didn't really know what I could do to get minutes," Portis said. "The one thing that I know that I always do is just come in here every day, work as hard as I can, let the dominos fall how they fall. Every day I come in here, just bust my butt for some minutes, but sometimes it wouldn't work."

Now that he has found himself into Hoiberg's good graces, his improving range has allowed both units to play similiarly.

"I think Bobby has done a real nice job," Hoiberg said. "He was a huge part of our win against Boston in our game right before the break. He just goes out and plays with so much energy. What I really like about him right now is he has no hesitation on his shot. He's stepping into his 3 with good rhythm."