Commentary

Lovie's not going anywhere

Bears coach may miss the playoffs again, but that doesn't mean he'll get fired

Updated: December 24, 2012, 12:32 PM ET
By Scoop Jackson | ESPNChicago.com

His face did not look like that of a head coach who was on the verge of being escorted out of the city.

Instead, Lovie Smith looked as if nothing was wrong. As if the news/talk/rumors/suggestions/demands for his departure from Chicago aren't orbiting around him like planets. As if the new reality of his possible end game here either doesn't faze him or he simply doesn't care.

[+] EnlargeSmith
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhLovie Smith has one year left on his deal with the Bears.
To the man who displays the same amount of facial expressions during a game as Kristen Stewart in a photo shoot (one), the fact that this is happening to Smith -- most of the discussion this week has been about him and his limits and flaws as the head coach of the Bears -- seems so trivial to him. So next year.

On a day when the word "accountability" was being constantly repeated around Halas Hall, Smith simply remained accountable for the only thing within his immediate control: his team in this moment.

"In the locker room," he said to reporters after Wednesday's practice, "guys know what's at stake this week and know exactly what they need to be concentrating on. And that's Arizona."

Supreme focus or supreme denial? If you use Smith's expressions and demeanor as a gauge, you'll never know the answer.

But what is really at stake? Something more than the chance of missing the playoffs for the fifth time in the last six years of his tenure? If anyone took the pulse of the heart rate and rhythm of the city, they'd discover that Smith's job might not officially be at stake, but the desire for him to remain here is at the lowest point it's ever been.

Truth is, unless the Bears totally fall apart and don't come close to winning the last two games of this season, then Lovie will be back. His entire coaching staff might not be, and there will be some movement (finally!) on the roster to improve the offensive line -- maybe even a Devin Hester trade? -- but the organization will give Smith at least one more year to succeed.

Or fail.

What's on his side, and what the McCaskeys will use as a reason or excuse as to why things went so bad so fast the last two seasons, are injuries. To ownership and upper management, it would be unfair to hold a head coach responsible when injuries eat away at the core of a team.

Last season remains self-explanatory. This season has been a lot less dramatic and drastic but just as damaging. Whether the players not suiting up over the past six games could have made a difference or not is open for heated discussions, but losing clutch kicker (Robbie Gould), potential all-pro (Tim Jennings), future Hall of Famer (Brian Urlacher), No. 2 wide receiver (Earl Bennett) and No. 2 running back (Michael Bush) and Jay Cutler for nearly two entire games (concussion in second quarter in Week 10 then missed Week 11, both losses) inside of this 1-5 stretch is what the Bears front office will use as the main reason for keeping Smith.

Justification? Cop out? Or both? I'm just saying ...

So despite what Phil Emery said when he took over as the new GM about not guaranteeing Smith anything past this season, Smith will last past this season.

Maybe the coach knows that his ice is not as thin if he doesn't win these next two games as, say, Jason Garrett's ice is in Dallas if he doesn't win his last two or the NFC East; maybe Smith knows these far-reaching reports of Sean Payton replacing him (because he has Chicago ties) or Mike Singletary getting a second chance as an NFL head coach here (because he's a Chicago icon) have no merit because the Bears really don't have anyone in mind at this point to replace him; maybe Smith knows that as long as Urlacher has his back and Cutler hasn't turned on him, his job with the Bears is as safe as Tom Thibodeau is with the Bulls.

Even if he's only one of the very few in Chicago who knows it: Smith is safe. He's going nowhere. Put the #OccupyLovieSmith (OLS) movement on hold, it's not going to work until either the middle of or toward the end of next season. Depending if the Bears win the NFC North or at least beat Green Bay.

Which is the real reason why Smith can look and remain and be so unassuming and unaffected by all of this skepticism, rumor, innuendo, hearsay, insinuation and wishful thinking going on around him. He knows words can never hurt a man when his doubters don't have sticks or stones to throw at him.

And a franchise quarterback has your back.

Scoop Jackson | email

ESPN.com columnist

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