Lovie, Bears Run out of Luck

Article excerpt

It seems entirely appropriate, in a perverse sort of way, that the Green Bay Packers determined the Bears' fate Sunday.

After all, pandering to the masses has long been a Lovie Smith trademark, especially as he talked of needing nothing more in life than a victory over the Bears' storied rival.

But that was more story than rivalry, as the Packers have won six straight and eight of nine from the Bears, who defeated the hapless Lions on Sunday in Detroit and then flew home, watching from afar as the Packers lost in the final seconds to Minnesota.

The local NFL season is over, the Bears becoming the first team since 1996 to start 7-1 and miss the playoffs.

And how pathetic it was for the Bears -- so smug back in early November -- to have to beg for help from their Wisconsin neighbors.

Nevertheless, it was all up to Aaron Rodgers to save the Bears from themselves and extend Smith's Bears career by another week at least.

It didn't happen, and now another year for Smith will supposedly be up to GM Phil Emery, who discouraged many a Bears fan when he talked to WBBM 780-AM before Sunday's game and made it sound as though he's a big fan of the head coach.

"Great team-first person. He's done an outstanding job coaching the Bears," Emery said. "It is the full season and the whole body of work. It's about steady progress toward our goals, which is to win championships."

Before a game the Bears needed to win to stay alive, it would have made no sense for the GM to say the head coach had something to prove, so maybe it was just Emery saying the right things and avoiding controversy.

But he sure didn't appear to be a man ready to dump the head coach.

"When you're evaluating players, you're always looking for body of work," Emery said Sunday. "It's no different when you're evaluating coaches."

If Emery is being forced to keep Smith, or wants to retain Smith and is looking for ways to explain his decision, Emery could say that Smith averages 9 victories a year and has made the playoffs three times in nine seasons. …