Why Are We Talking About A Contract Extension For Lovie Smith?

Why are we talking about a contract extension for Lovie Smith?

Can’t get enough mediocrity?

The Bears are 4-1, those four wins coming against teams with a combined won-loss record of 8-10. What does 4-1 prove? Nothing. And yet The Score’s Terry Boers is reporting that Smith, who is under contract through 2013, is in discussions with the Bears on a two-year extension. GM Phil Emery has denied the report, but that hasn’t quelled the rumors or the media intrigue.

Am I missing something?

Sure, Smith and the Bears have positioned themselves nicely going into the bye week, and Lovie’s defense has been superb. But defense has always been Smith’s strength, and all too often the strong D has been accompanied by an offense so stagnant it’s covered in pond scum.

David Haugh of the Trib made his less-than-iron-clad case for an extension thusly:

“Assuming the Bears finish the season the way they have started, Smith’s price only will go up—and, in that case, would be money well-spent for a franchise wise to reinvest in his leadership.”

The headline on the column read: “It’s Hard to Argue With Lovie Smith’s Success.”

Actually, it’s easy: In eight years of coaching the Bears, his playoff record is 3-3 with no Super Bowl wins.

The prosecution rests.

GM Phil Emery’s first priority this offseason was to overhaul the roster offensively, specifically at the skill positions. We’ve seen some signs of progress, albeit against weak opponents. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice has hinted that the Bears might move to an expedited offense after this week’s bye, with Jay Cutler given the freedom to operate an open-faced meatloaf (Chicago-style) version of the no-huddle offense. I’ll believe it when I see it.

And that’s the thing: Until we see the high-priced offense running on all cylinders, there is nothing to suggest the 2012 team is better than 2005, 2006, or 2010. So why would anyone but Lovie’s agent (who also happens to be his son) want to talk about a contract extension?

Smith’s Bears made back-to-back playoff appearances only once, in 2005 and 2006, and since then, his record is 42-38. At his best, Smith is a player’s coach with a calming sideline demeanor. But he’s had more than enough time to prove himself, and this season he’s got the players. If he can’t get it done, the Bears would be wise to bring in a coach who can pay quick dividends, as Jim Harbaugh did in San Francisco.

What happens if the Bears extend Lovie and 4-1 turns into 9-7? Does that seem an absurd outcome?

No, it doesn’t. The only absurd outcome for this season would be extending a contract when no action at all is required. Are the Bears afraid that Smith will hold them up for huge money after he hoists the Lombardi Trophy? Let him. That’s a price they should be thrilled to pay.

But, hey, I’m not hard hearted. If the Bears string together six or seven straight Ws this season, finish ahead of Green Bay, and secure home-field advantage in the playoffs, maybe I’ll climb aboard the Love Train and welcome Smith back for another stretch.

Until then, sit tight Chicago Bears.

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