Friday, Feb. 25, 2011
By John Mullin
INDIANAPOLIS New York Jets coach Rex Ryan on Thursday issued a declaration and a guarantee that the Jets will win the next Super Bowl. That isnt Lovie Smiths style and he wouldnt guarantee much more than max effort from his team and staff.
But he was very, very clear that the core from a team that was within a score of reaching the last Super Bowl is in place.
Theres a couple of areas we need to improve, Smith said, but I think the core is in place, starting with our quarterback, Jay Cutler, leading us. I wouldnt want any other quarterback except for Jay. Im excited about him going into that second year with Mike and seeing those improvements on the offensive side.
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The sting of the 21-14 loss to Green Bay in the NFC Championship game has faded a bit by this time. Seven points. That is a deficit Smith is certain that the Bears can make up.
We know that were close, Smith said. We played the Super Bowl champions as well as anyone in the course of the year. And we need to; theyre in our division like some of our other division opponents. We feel like well make ground on them next year.
For all of the travail and shuffling of last season, sources told CSNChicago.com that the Bears quite possibly could open the 2011 season with none of their 2010 offensive line starters in the same places they were. Olin Kreutz is a free agent and the collective bargaining uncertainty has some of those kinds of situations on hold.
But offensive line is an offseason target area. Frank Omiyale is not a lock at left tackle, nor is Chris Williams at left guard, Roberto Garza at right guard or JMarcus Webb at right tackle.
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I dont think you try to just pin yourself down on those things, Smith said. There are a lot of different options. What I like is when you have guys with flexibility. You mentioned Chris Williams. Hes played three different positions. That gives you flexibility. Like our safeties Chris Harris, Danieal Manning, Major Wright. All of those players can play different positions.
Enough about Jay already
A reporter who appeared to not be paying a lot of recent attention wondered if Smith was satisfied with the toughness of his quarterback. There are few things that spark an anger flash in Smith the way questions about Jay Cutlers toughness after his knee injury do.
Just to kind of hit Jay one last time, Smith said, measuring his words.No. Theres no question about Jays toughness or anything like that. For guys to even challenge that or question that dont know what theyre talking about, dont know him. Hes as tough as any quarterback in the league. Really, Ive said enough about him.
The Bears turned down a request from the Tennessee Titans to interview offensive line coach Mike Tice for the Titans post of offensive coordinator under new coach Mike Munchak. It was not a move out of spite; anything but. The team earlier allowed special teams assistant Chris Tabor to go to the Cleveland Browns and permitted defensive backs coach Jon Hoke to interview with the Philadelphia Eagles opening at defensive coordinator. Defensive line assistant Eric Washington also was permitted to interview and leave.
But those moves were some time ago and the vacancies were quickly filled. The Tice situation was deeper into the offseason, to the point where finding a quality assistant would have been virtually impossible.
A lot of things come into play, Smith said. As a general rule I would like to see our guys advance anytime they can. But theres a deadline a little bit there. Its a little late in the game. Mike was OK. Its not like were keeping any secrets or anything. Mikes excited about being on our staff right now. The timing wasnt right for it right then.
But you look at it. We had other coaches going out. Jon Hoke interviewed for the defensive coordinator position a little earlier in the year. We felt like it was a little late in the season and we felt we had to go with looking at whats best for the Chicago Bears.
Ill make a prediction that the guys are going to play as hard as they possibly can each week and I can take the results knowing the football team that we have. I can just guarantee you were going to play the way our players play always. Cant ask for anything more from them. Theres nothing guaranteed. But you look at our history. Weve won more games than weve lost. In our team here, weve won the division championship three times. Weve been to the championship game a couple years. Our staff knows what theyre doing. We have good players. And I like our chances next year.
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.