The Chicago Bears believe in Lovie Smith, but only a little bit. Or at least that’s the message they’re sending by offering and agreeing to a deal that extends Smith’s time in the Windy City by only two more years.
The Bears signed their head coach to a two-year contract extension Friday morning. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Smith is now locked in until 2013. He was set to enter the final year of a four-year, $22 million contract.
The move to keep Smith in Chicago is one that must not have taken much thought. After leaving his post as a defensive coordinator for the Rams in 2004, Smith has the third most coaching wins in franchise history with a record of 63-49 over seven seasons. Under his watch the Bears have won the NFC North three times, and appeared in the 2006 Super Bowl–a loss because of not-so sexy Rexy.
A defensive mind who gelled quickly with the historically defensive minded Bears organization and fanbase, Smith may be winning, but his defences haven’t lived up to the trademark hard-hitting Chicago style. Stalwarts like Brian Urlacher are starting to show their age, and since the 2006 season in which the Bears gave up an average of 294.1 yards per game they’ve surrendered 329 yards each week.
Combine that with a lack of a consistent running game–Matt Forte had only three 100+ yard games this season, and five games with 30 or fewer yards–and perhaps we’re beginning to see why the Bears only minimal confidence in Smith’s ability to maintain the Chicago way.
Mike Smith and John Harbaugh, two coaches whose teams have also thrived, recently received three-year extensions, keeping them along their respective sidelines until 2014. Bickering over one year may at first seem like we’re sculpting a mountain out of a tiny mole hill, but there’s something to be said for job security. The Bears were in a position to ensure Smith wouldn’t be looking over his shoulder by giving him a longer term, and they didn’t do it.
Smith wasn’t bothered, and said so during his press conference this morning at the NFL Scouting Combine, praising the organization and his players, and generally sounding like the average man who was just given a lot of money.
Then talk turned to Jay Cutler (what? you’re surprised?), and Smith’s response was again quite predictable as he defended his quarterback in his first public opportunity to do so.
His reaction may have been predictable, but his analogy wasn’t.
“Going back to Jay one time, let’s really analyze, who questioned him in the end? None of you guys did. Our team didn’t,” Smith said. “That’s like you coming to me and saying that I am a racist. Well, what are you basing that on? Toughness (with Cutler)? What are you basing that on? You don’t know what you’re talking about if you say that.
“To say that Jay Cutler isn’t tough. After a while … every day if I saw you and said, ‘Hey, are you a racist?’ Why would you even do that? Why would you question a man? What happened for you to question that anyway?
And now the Cutler toughness talk will take its offseason break and wait for football to start again, just like the rest of us. That is, if it starts again this year.