The turmoil of the last four games three of them losses have turned the Bears from one kind of national story into another, as Mike Florio and I went into Wednesday on Mikes ProFootballTalk Live!
He and I had talked about Lovie Smiths position on any hot seat back in training camp. Mike saw him vulnerable after the game-two loss at Green Bay, which gradually turned into thoughts of a possible extension when the Bears were 7-1, and now Smith is back in that what-if? discussion.
The issue may not entirely be whether the Bears make the playoffs for Smith to serve out the last year of his contract; it may be how that comes to be. Because for the Bears to fall out of the playoffs means they will have taken a bad loss somewhere in the next four games, on top of a very difficult rematch with the Packers.
As I mentioned to Mike, the stated reason for Jerry Angelos firing after last season was what President Ted Phillips said was a failure to close the talent gap with the Packers. If the Bears lose two in 2012 to Green Bay, that rationale could be in play again.
The subject of Brian Urlacher is also very much in play, obviously, and Mike was interested in the overall of 54 with this team. My analogy, as far as grasping his true value, was a Larry Bird or Magic Johnson type of player: someone who makes everyone else better. Thats what Urlacher does, why he is a favorite on the field and in the locker room, and why he will be a superb fit for Lovie Smith as long as the Bears are playing their version of the 4-3.
As I noted on Monday morning, the Bears have held concussed players Jay Cutler (twice), Devin Hester, Shea McClellin out of the game following their head injuries. If Earl Bennett practices at all this week, that will be news. Players simply do not return quickly from concussions, with the trend arrow pointing more that direction with the increasing awareness of the severity of that injury.
Mike was interested in the possible return of Hester this week, which is probable. But the bigger return for the offense right now might be Alshon Jeffery, who was doing some moving around last Sunday on his repaired right knee and would be a key addition to an offense struggling to get anything going in the pass game.