NFC North: Frank Bauer
INDIANAPOLIS -- A few of us did a double-take Friday when Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith said he was happy with the job his agent, whom he identified as Matthew Smith, did in negotiating a two-year contract extension. Veteran agent Frank Bauer has long represented Lovie Smith. Who is Matthew Smith?
Friday's rapid-fire activity around the NFC North left that question on the backburner for me, but Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times got it answered: Matthew Smith is Lovie's son and a second-year law student at Loyola. Lovie Smith joked: "I wanted a guy who could spend all his time with one client, so that's what I did."
Smith's contract now extends through 2013. Terms were not disclosed, but it is assumed it included a raise from the annual $5 million salary he has been drawing.
Continuing around the NFC North on the third day of the scouting combine:
- Jon Greenberg of ESPNChicago.com: "The truth is Smith is a good NFL coach who fits the ethos of his organization and operates with the trust of his players. There was no reason not to give him this modest extension. Given the general outline of what a professional football coach should do -- be the public face of the team, delegate responsibility to assistants, inspire confidence in the players, organize the season and, most of all, win football games -- Smith did a fine job in 2011."
- Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune after Bears general manager Jerry Angelo spoke to local reporters: "While he said there will be a 'bevy' of talented players available in free agency, it sounded like Angelo wants to fortify a couple positions instead of hunting the big fish."
- Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com provides additional highlights of the Angelo interview.
- The Detroit Lions won't shy away from drafting defensive linemen, writes Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
- Lions general manager Martin Mayhew on the team's tampering penalty, via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News: "You win some, you lose some. As of right now, we lost that one. I take the blame for that. That's my fault."
- Mayhew knows the Lions need to upgrade their No. 3 receiver position, notes Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com.
- The combine marks the start of a new season for the Green Bay Packers, writes Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
- The Packers have joined the rest of the NFL in taking their offseason business slowly, writes Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- New Packers receivers coach Edgar Bennett will preach ball security, writes Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- A lockout would be a "big-time curveball" for the Minnesota Vikings, writes Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune, who would otherwise use the offseason to install a new offensive scheme.
- Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press wonders if the Vikings will seek a quarterback later than the first round.
- Vikings coach Leslie Frazier will hit the road to help scout quarterbacks, notes Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
As we noted last month, Culpepper hired attorney David Cornwell as an advisor but remains his own agent when it comes to soliciting and negotiating contracts. He is an unrestricted free agent who now knows he won't be returning to the Lions, who replaced him earlier this month by acquiring Shaun Hill from San Francisco.
Culpepper said he has touched base with a handful of teams so far this offseason but hasn't had any serious contract discussions.
"That's why I'm here," Culpepper said.
Agents often drop in on the owners meeting to jump-start negotiations. In the past day, I've seen Drew Rosenhaus, David Dunn and Frank Bauer, among others, making the rounds.
Former Detroit coach Rod Marinelli is visiting Chicago's practice facility Friday, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times. Although Marinelli's agent stressed that no deal has been finalized, it seems clear that he will join the Bears' coaching staff in some capacity this offseason.
As of Friday, the Bears had created only one opening on their staff, having fired defensive backs coach Steve Wilks. Defensive coordinator Bob Babich and defensive line coach Brick Haley, whose jobs Marinelli would seem most likely to take if he were hired, remain on the payroll.
But Marinelli has a long history with Bears coach Lovie Smith and Bears general manager Jerry Angelo from the trio's time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It's possible Marinelli could take Haley's job along with an assistant head coach's title.
Marinelli's agent, Frank Bauer, also represents Smith and Babich. Bauer told the Sun-Times that Marinelli is going to "take his time" deciding on his future plans. But there is a widespread belief in the NFL that Marinelli will eventually find his way to Chicago.
The Bears will need to handle this situation delicately. The fact that coaching candidates are visiting while Babich remains employed suggests the Bears are still weighing his future.
But bringing in Marinelli, while retaining Babich, would create a situation that historically is difficult to manage. Babich might technically remain in charge of the defense, but you would have to assume Marinelli would assume an unusually significant role for a non-coordinator. That creates chain-of-command issues that almost always lead to internal factioning.
To make it work, Marinelli, Babich and Smith would have to forge an exceptional relationship to present a united front and maintain a clear hierarchy. In the reality of today's NFL, that's a tough task.