Does Sunday's win save Lovie's job?

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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.

Cubs enjoy 'Anchorman' road trip after big home stand: '60 percent of the time, it works every time'

Cubs enjoy 'Anchorman' road trip after big home stand: '60 percent of the time, it works every time'

Win or lose, the Cubs were always going to leave Wrigley Field on a good note Thursday evening.

Joe Maddon made sure of that.

The Cubs left "The Friendly Confines" dressed in "Anchorman" attire for Maddon's themed road trip that included Kyle Schwarber dressed as fictional sportscaster Champ Kind, right down to the gallon-size hat.

"Champ's my guy," Schwarber said.

John Lackey also got in the spirit of Champ Kind

Maddon thought Schwarber was the perfect fit for Champ Kind.

"Of course he should be," Maddon said. "Isn't that a [John] Lackey kinda look, also?

"I just love that they're into it. It would've been perfect going to San Diego first, but I'll take it."

The Cubs are shipping out to Los Angeles for a weekend series beginning Friday before heading to San Diego — the site of Ron Burgandy's affection — from there.

The Cubs apparently even have some "Sex Panther" on board, the cologne that Paul Rudd's character used that smelled...shall we say...awful.

"Sex Panther's on board," Maddon said before Thursday's game. "I'm hearing a lot of good things about Sex Panther. 'Sixty percent of the time, [it works every time].' I wanna know who wrote that. That's brilliant.

"Of course, a win always makes it better, but even after a loss, it's a good way to just let 'er go. But I think everybody's embraced the 'Anchorman' very well."

Of course, the Cubs did win, beating the San Francisco Giants 5-1 to close out a 7-2 home stand.

Check out some of the best photos as the Cubs exited Wrigley Field on Thursday:

Summing up the Cubs' impressive, potentially season-altering homestand

Summing up the Cubs' impressive, potentially season-altering homestand

For the third straight year, the Cubs' season could hinge on an important series with the San Francisco Giants.

In August of 2015, the Cubs swept the Giants in a four-game set at Wrigley Field and they built off that momentum to win 97 games and make it all the way to the National League Championship Series.

Last fall, the Cubs rallied to beat the Giants in an epic comeback in Game 4 of the NLDS, essentially winning the World Series in that game, by Joe Maddon's opinion.

The 2017 Cubs have spent all year hovering around .500 before winning three of four against the Giants this week at Wrigley, looking more and more like the defending champs.

Thursday's 5-1 win over the Giants was the icing on top of an impressive 7-2 homestand that also featured a sweep of the Cincinnati Reds and a split in a rain-shortened series with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Here's the summation of the potentially season-altering homestand:

—The Cubs are now 14-11 at home and 25-21 overall, having caught up to the Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central. 

—This is the best homestand since the Cubs went 8-2 in a 10-game set from Aug. 9-18 last summer.

—The Cubs are four games above .500 for the third time this year, representing a season-high.

—How will this homestand affect the team moving forward?

"Well, you're gonna find out," Maddon said. "That's the kind of homestand we look forward to having because that's what we did last year and that's what got us there.

But we've also been a good road team. We're gonna get on the plane, have the Anchorman road trip; there'll be a lot of laughing and giggling, which is always good going to play a very good team in Los Angeles."

—On the nine-game homestand, the Cubs found their offensive groove, scoring 59 runs — good for 6.56 runs per game.

—They also smashed 20 home runs, which is nearly a third of their season total (62). On the homestand, 45.7 percent of the Cubs' runs came via the longball.

"Yeah, we're starting to hit 'em," Maddon said. "I also believe the weather [is a factor], it's a little bit warmer, somewhat more favorable wind conditions have helped a little bit, too.

"We have that kind of power on our team. We needed to get into our groove a little bit. Looks like it's starting to show up right now. You're starting to see it from a wider range of the players. It's definitely a part of our game. But it is contagious, I agree with that."

—Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist delivered the offense with a solo homer each off former Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija. Bryant and Anthony Rizzo added insurance by both scoring on a wild pitch (and subsequent error) in the bottom of the eighth inning.

—Heyward's blast was his fifth of the season. He didn't notch his fifth homer of 2016 until July 29.

—The Cubs are now 9-0 when hitting at least three homers in a game. They were 20-2 in 2016 when crushing at least a trio of longballs.

—The Cubs weren't just offense this homestand, also showing off the leather, like Javy Baez's ridiculous play in the eighth inning of the series finale against the Giants:

—Eddie Butler turned in another solid start, allowing just a run in five innings. Mike Montgomery faced one above the minimum in four innings of relief, inducing six outs on ground balls.

It was Montgomery's first regular-season save. You might remember his only other career save...

—Cubs are 9-5-1 in 15 series this season.

—The homestand was also fraught with controversy and drama, beginning with Reds manager Bryan Price's "hail to the Cubs" moment followed by the Brewers laying into the Cubs' handling of last Saturday's rainout and finishing with the Giants complaining they were unable to challenge Bryant's first-inning homer Thursday because the phones didn't work.

—With the Cubs embarking on an 'Anchorman'-themed road trip to the West Coast, Maddon was asked how Ron Burgandy would sum up the homestand:

"Stay classy, Chicago."