Bears

Lovie comfortable with future in Chicago

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Lovie comfortable with future in Chicago

Monday, Jan. 3, 2011
3:04 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

It wasnt immediately clear Monday whether Lovie Smith was addressing the media, his supporters, general fans, his critics (some crossover there, obviously), or Bears management. Probably all of them.

Smith will not be among the coaching casualties this season, not after an 11-5 season and return to the playoffs after three seasons of only 16 games. Wade Phillips in Dallas, Minnesotas Brad Childress, Mike Singletary in San Francisco, Eric Mangini in Cleveland (after exactly two seasons), and quite likely Tom Cable in Oakland, Miamis Tony Sparano and John Fox in Carolina, Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati.

A year ago there was no doubt that Smith was returning for 2010 but make no mistake: 2011 was very much in question. Now 2011 is set, has been for quite some time, and best guess is that Smith will receive an extension, possibly of two years beyond 2011, if the Bears reach the Super Bowl.

That may not happen until labor issues are closer to resolution. But even that began breaking in Smiths favor Monday when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to 5 million fans declaring, I know we can and will reach an agreement.

So it wasnt at all surprising that Smith was visibly comfortable not only with the podium at which he was standing, again, and with the prospects of being there for more than just an annual, year-to-year referendum on his coaching.

Its where Ive been standing for seven years so I dont know what else to say, Smith said. Ive been in this position a few years. I love being here and plan on being here for a long time.

And more than once he gave his No. 1 reason, indirectly addressing what President Ted Phillips set forth as the franchises demand of Smith for 2010, that the team be moving significantly in the right direction.

In Smiths mind, it absolutely has been and is:

the guys have showed up each week, he said, which speaks to coaching preparedness, and were a good defensive team like were a good football team.

Talking about whether there are teams he would like or not like to play in the postseason (there are), the good football team theme was there again.

Were a good football team, Smith said. This time of the year, the teams that are in the playoffs are good football teams. The match-up is pretty good, pretty balanced no matter who you play.

Hurtful time

Mondays after final regular-season games arent especially upbeat in general when you look around the NFL and see the coaching careers that are hearing the snap of the gallows. No matter how inevitable it is or how obvious the changes might be, its never a truly happy day when someone loses a job. (Those of us whove gone through it can relate.)

So can Lovie Smith, who a year ago took his place over the trap door when his team missed the playoffs for the third straight year and a fourth was very likely going to be his last in Chicago. He and his team responded with their 11-5 performance.

Youre not happy about that, Smith said. In any profession, youre not happy about anyone losing their job. Anyone with a family, providing for their family, losing their job. But in our profession we realize whats at stake when we come in. Its pretty simple. Its about wins and losses. In the end it comes down to that and we all realize that.

There will be some good football coaches that will lose their jobs but there will be good football coaches thatll get other jobs too. To make it this far and be leading an NFL franchise, its saying quite a bit about yourself. Thats part of the profession, the business and we know it.

Talking ball

After my weekly visit with central Illinois on WFMB-AM SportsRadio 1450 this afternoon at 4:40, Ill join Kap and Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet at 5:30 and then finish off with our regular Monday on-line chat on CSNChicago.com, this week at 7:15 p.m. instead of 7. Looking forward to some football bidness.

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.

Chargers' Anthony Lynn says Mitch Trubisky reminded him of Aaron Rodgers

Chargers' Anthony Lynn says Mitch Trubisky reminded him of Aaron Rodgers

Imagine, for a moment, what this Bears team would be like if it had Aaron Rodgers under center, leading the offense, with a defense captained by Khalil Mack. It seems nearly impossible to picture it, but according to Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn, it wouldn't have been as difficult back in 2017 when Trubisky was a highly-touted draft prospect.

Lynn, during his conference call with reporters Wednesday, said Trubisky reminded him of the future Hall of Famer back when he was coming out of North Carolina.

"He made throws. He had a quick release. He reminded me sometimes of Aaron Rodgers," Lynn said. "The way he moved around. If he ever got in a bind, he could create. I just thought he had the total package."

Trubisky's final season as a Tar Heel feels like ancient history, but Lynn's assessment isn't far off. Trubisky completed 68% of his passes for 3,748 yards with 30 touchdowns and only six interceptions. His 5-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio is an elite stat, and his ability to create with his legs made him that much more appealing to NFL general managers. He was so desired that GM Ryan Pace infamously traded up one spot (from No. 3 overall to No. 2) to draft him.

What may have been overlooked, however, was the offense Trubisky operated in at UNC. It was a very basic, quick-hitting system that didn't require much "quarterbacking" from the now-struggling pro. And while it's still too early to say Trubisky will never become a franchise passer, it's pretty clear he isn't destined to be in the elite tier.

Through five games (four if you factor in his early exit against the Vikings in Week 4), Trubisky's completed 64.4% of his passes for 839 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Sadly, more than 250 of his yards and two of his touchdowns came in what Matt Nagy admitted was garbage time in Week 7's loss to the Saints.

General managers, coaches and scouts will often hold onto scouting reports way too long. Maybe it's a pride or ego thing. Maybe it's a failure to accept reality. But with Trubisky, it's pretty clear his college scouting report was flawed, and it's on Pace and Nagy to make sure they know if his issues are correctable. If not, they can't hold onto hope that a Rodgers-like breakout will suddenly (and miraculously) occur.

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In a way, Roquan Smith's recent struggles mirror the Bears' larger defensive issues

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USA Today

In a way, Roquan Smith's recent struggles mirror the Bears' larger defensive issues

It’s wild to think about how, only two months ago, Bears’ linebacker Roquan Smith was wrapping up a month of training camp where – on more than one occasion – he looked like the best player on the team. Hyperbole reigns in Bourbonnais, but given his stellar rookie season, expectations for Smith’s second season were through the roof. 

Fast forward six games, and Smith’s season has looked far closer to a worst-case scenario than the All-Pro campaign that many (including yours truly) had him locked in for. Personal issues aside, Smith’s performance on the field hasn’t lived up to the standard he set last year, when he led the team in total tackles (122). 

“He can definitely play better,” Matt Nagy said on Tuesday. “And he knows that. That’s where we’re at right now. And he’s gonna. I think he will. We all know exactly what we’ve all done together in the last couple weeks.” 

Nagy wouldn’t speculate on whether Smith is still finding his form after missing some time with an off-field issue that was never disclosed. Last Sunday he was only on the field for 54 of 78 snaps, and seemed to be subbed out on 3rd down more frequently than in the past. When he has been on the field – especially in the last two games – the tape hasn’t been kind. 

Per Pro Football Focus, here’s how Smith graded out, and where it ranked among all linebackers, after his rookie season: 

Overall Def: 65.0 (71)
Run defense: 55.1 (137) 
Tackling: 73.9 (69)
Pass Rush: 72.8 (28) 
Coverage: 67.8 (41)

And now, this season: 

Overall Def: 48.0 (117) 
Run defense: 50.3 (113)
Tackling: 77.5 (31)
Pass Rush: 47.2 (131)
Coverage: 50.7 (95)

“He’s doing everything he can,” Nagy added. “None of it is because of lack of effort or want or any of that. And none of it is because of the lack of couldn’t. We all look at each other. We all want to help each other out. And we feel like we all can coach and play better.”

In some ways, Smith’s issues are a good microcosm of what’s plagued the Bears’ defense over the last month. Eddie Jackson said that side of the ball has lost some of their swagger, and even a casual eye test can see that the team isn’t playing with quite the same physicality that became their calling card under Vic Fangio. 

“Well, I would agree with that,” Nagy added. “There hasn’t been that physicality. They know that. Again, none of it is because of a lack of want. A lot of it just comes down to there are certain plays and certain parts of the game that it’s not getting done, and it was before.” 

Losing Akiem Hicks obviously doesn’t help. The Bears’ defense still has plenty of talent at all levels, however, and no one inside Halas Hall (and certainly no one outside it) is feeling sorry for themselves. 

“I think it’s preparation,” Nagy replied when asked how the defense could get back to an elite level. “Then there’s reactionary skills, of when it happens, you’re prepared, you saw what happened and you can react. That’s probably the biggest thing. That’s something you would have to ask each and every player because they’re all different on how much they prepare and how well they prepare.”

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