9:47 PM EDT, October 11, 2012
Of course Phil Emery and Lovie Smith denied they have been knocking knees over a fresh contract for the coach. There's no upside for either of them if they indicate otherwise.
If they're being truthful and Emery does wait until after the season for such a conversation, that's a good thing. Emery is a rookie general manager and it's best for anybody in any vocation to ease into the job. There's no good reason to rush to judgment, especially for something as critical as a commitment to the headmaster.
Smith, whose contract doesn't expire until after next season, doesn't want to create the impression he's puffy-chested after an encouraging 4-1 start. While the coach always is quick to be smug with media, don't think for a second he doesn't care how he's viewed in the court of public opinion.
One of the first things Smith did when he succeeded Dick Jauron was try to appeal to Meatball Nation by placing success against the hated Packers high on his mission statement. Maybe there's something in the water at Halas Hall, but the team's preoccupation with protecting its public perception has ballooned over the last decade or so.
Unless the Bears make a Super Bowl appearance, I would love to see them buck the conventional NFL trend and let Smith enter the final year of his deal "playing" for his job. Players do that on 32 NFL teams every year.
Who made the rule that coaches are above that and should be exempt from lame-duck status?
Smith needs to win a game in January to earn a new deal. The standard by which coaches are judged needs to be higher than "his players play hard for him."
Please tell me the new direction the Bears are taking under Chairman George McCaskey's stewardship includes a higher standard than winning what could be a very average NFC North. Please tell me postseason accomplishments are the objective and will be the most important barometer.
If the Packers don't recover, the Vikings come down to the earth and the Bears win the division, does a first-round loss to the Giants merit a contract extension for Smith? Not in my world.
Since the Bears went to Super Bowl XLI in February of 2007, Smith has one playoff victory on his resume. In 2010, his Bears beat a Seahawks team that, according to the numbers crunchers, was the worst postseason outfit in NFL history.
I need more.
Advocates of a new deal for Smith say it makes sense to "buy low" before he gets his mitts on the Lombardi trophy. That's silly.
If the Bears take a confetti shower, they should be delighted to make Smith the highest-paid coach in league history. If they don't win a game in January, they should have a clear conscience requiring him to earn a new deal based on his team in 2013.
It's pro football. Grown-up rules are for everybody, right?
Hold the phone, Phil.
Special contributor Dan McNeil hosts "The McNeil and Spiegel Show" weekdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on WSCR-AM 670.