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.

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Only three of John Fox’s 12 wins as Bears coach have been against NFC North opponents, while 12 of his 29 losses have come against divisional opponents. 

That’s a recipe for back-to-back-to-back last place finishes in the NFC North. And if the Bears can’t beat an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers team, why could it beat a Detroit Lions team that has a healthy franchise quarterback?

The positive end of that answer is the Bears do have wins over two playoff teams (Pittsburgh and Carolina) while six of their four losses have been by eight points or fewer. Sunday’s game will probably be close, again (if it’s not, and the Bears are on the losing end of it, it would raise some significant concerns about the state of Fox within the locker room). 

So if the game is decided by one possession or less, this could be the difference: Detroit has one of the best special teams units in the NFL, ranking second in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, while the Bears are 28th by the same measure. 

Getting Sherrick McManis back this week should help solidify Jeff Rodgers’ special teams units, but Jamal Agnew has two punt return scores and is averaging 18.3 yards per return. 

“Tough guy — he’ll return inside and outside,” Rodgers said. “He’s got multiple longer returns against people this year. it’s not just, ‘I had a long return in Week 2 or Week 1,’ and kinda held onto that. he’s been productive in a lot of games. certainly a guy that we’ve gotta do a good job against.”

If the Bears don’t do a good job bottling up Agnew, though, he could be the reason why the game flips to Detroit — or, at least, why the Lions keep the Bears at arm’s length. 

Prediction: Lions 24, Bears 16

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma ( and Matt Zahn (CBS 2) join Kap on the panel. If the Bears lose badly to the Lions, should Sunday be John Fox’s last game? 

Plus Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill joins the panel to talk Bulls as well as the Niko/Portis cold war.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: