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Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Not enough love for Bears' Smith

By Michael C. Wright

Lovie Smith
No respect? Even after winning another NFC North title and earning a contract extension, Lovie Smith's job security was questioned by a reporter.
Maybe it's nitpicky to expect a higher ranking for Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith, but it's definitely worth mentioning that his team beat three of the names listed above him in the ESPN top 10 list of NFL coaches.

Checking in at No. 8 on the list, Smith defeated No. 3 Andy Reid's Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 28, No. 4 Mike McCarthy's Green Bay Packers on Sept. 27 and No. 7 Rex Ryan's New York Jets on Dec. 26.

That's not to say that Smith deserves a higher ranking than McCarthy, who beat Smith and the Bears twice en route to winning Super Bowl XLV. McCarthy should definitely be ranked higher than Smith. In fact, the Packers coach should also be ahead of No. 1 Bill Belichick, No. 2 Mike Tomlin (didn't McCarthy just beat him?), Reid and everyone else in the top 10 by virtue of his recent Lombardi Trophy acquisition.

Still, Smith probably deserves to at least be placed ahead of Reid, and No. 5 Sean Payton -- whose team lost in the opening round of the playoffs to an opponent the Bears smashed -- in addition to the brash Ryan, who couldn't squeeze out a victory at Soldier Field with his team's playoff hopes on the line.

Perhaps this shouldn't come as a surprise, though. After all, just hours after Smith signed a three-year extension to remain coach of the Bears in the wake of an 11-5 season and NFC championship berth, one of the first questions in the ensuing press conference was whether 2011 was a make-or-break year for him.

Huh?

Smith laughed at the notion during the NFL owners meetings in March, but the objective -- regardless of his new contract situation -- hasn't changed.

“I'm not just giving you talk. It's always about the next year, always,” Smith said. “Winning. You have to win to stay the following year or… that really doesn't matter. It's only about that. I've always looked at it as it's just that -- that next year -- and trying to win it all. And that's where we are.”

Anyway, we'd be remiss not to mention the fact that Smith finished 2010 with a 3-5 record against coaches listed among the league's top 10 by an average margin of 12 points in losses to Belichick, McCarthy, Tom Coughlin at No. 6, and No. 10 Mike Shanahan.

Still, we contend Smith, who is coming off his third NFC North title, deserves to be a spot or two higher on the list.

What do you think?