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DETROIT -- Chicago Bears' stars Brandon Marshall and Brian Urlacher voiced support Sunday for Lovie Smith shortly after the Bears were eliminated from playoff contention for the fifth time in the last six years.
I can't control all of (what might happen). I'll tell you one thing though. I want to end my career with Jay Cutler, (quarterbacks coach) Jeremy Bates, and Lovie (Smith) as my head coach.” -- Brandon Marshall
"I can't control all of (what might happen)," Marshall told ESPNChicago.com. "I'll tell you one thing though. I want to end my career with Jay Cutler, (quarterbacks coach) Jeremy Bates, and Lovie as my head coach."
The Bears scored 16 points off four turnovers Sunday to defeat the Detroit Lions 26-24 and finish the season with a 10-6 record. But the club failed to advance to the postseason after starting the year 7-1, marking just the second time since 1990 a team got off to such a start only to miss the playoffs. This is the sixth time in the past nine seasons under Smith the Bears aren't playing past the regular season.
When asked on his weekly Fox Chicago segment if he thought it would be a mistake to fire Smith, Urlacher didn't hesitate.
"One-hundred percent, yeah," he said. "He can't play for us. He gets us ready to play every week. He can't tackle people. He can't make picks. He can't block for the quarterback or run the football. All he can do is coach us, and he does a great job of that.
"We're always prepared to play on Sundays, and that's about as far as he can get us. He makes decisions in the games when to go for it, when not go for it on fourth down, when to kick a field goal, he's done a great job doing all that. I don't see how you couldn't bring him back as head coach."
Marshall said the Bears players would do anything for Smith.
"Where I'm at in my career, and what I'm comfortable with, that would be a great thing to be able to be with those three guys (Cutler, Bates and Smith) for the rest of my career," Marshall said. "Hopefully it works out that way. Guys are willing to run through a brick wall for (Smith), and when you have a guy like that, it's hard to find."
Marshall also backed Smith's assistants.
"I'm a big fan of Jeremy Bates and (offensive coordinator) Mike Tice," Marshall said.
Marshall called the current situation a learning experience.
"I'm very disappointed. But one thing I know, I'm a Christian and I do believe His will is being done right now," Marshall said. "I think it was a character-building year for us, especially a character-building year for me. Sometimes that's more important. What we went through makes us stronger for this offseason and next year. I just pray that we stick together, fix the things we need to fix in the offseason and come out next year firing."
After doing their part to make the playoffs -- beating the Lions -- the Bears waited in angst watching the broadcast of the Packers-Vikings game on televisions in the locker rooms at Ford Field. Minutes after Blair Walsh kicked a 29-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Vikings over the Packers 37-34, Bears players took to Twitter to voice displeasure.
"That's why you never depend on others to do something you can do!" linebacker Geno Hayes posted.
Safety Chris Conte asked, "How many reasons do you need to hate the Packers?"
Despite any perception that Smith's job might be in jeopardy, one source characterized the staff as feeling safe, "but whatever happens ... happens." Former general manager Jerry Angelo didn't expect his ouster coming off last season. According to multiple sources, Angelo never knew of his fate until he was informed during a meeting the morning of his firing.
Still, Bears general manager Phil Emery didn't sound like a man ready to part ways with his head coach, judging from the personnel executive's pregame interview Sunday on WBBM-AM 780.
Emery called Smith a "great-team first person," and added the coach has "done an outstanding job coaching the Chicago Bears."
Asked whether making Smith's job hinged on the team advancing to the postseason, Emery explained that "when you're evaluating players, you're always looking for body of work. No different when evaluating coaches. It's the full season and the whole body of work. It's about steady progress toward our goals, which is to win championships."
Emery's last statement would seem a difficult metric to gauge, based off the fact the Bears lost five of their last eight, including two of four on the road. Emery likely will also look at issues in personnel when making his evaluation in determining how the Bears should proceed.
The club convenes at Halas Hall on Monday to clean out lockers, undergo exit physicals and take part in a team meeting.