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MORRISSEY: Even if Bears make playoffs, Lovie Smith Era has run its course

Coach Lovie Smith Bears will make playoffs with victory next week against Lions Vikings loss Packers. ‘‘I’ve always been big

Coach Lovie Smith and the Bears will make the playoffs with a victory next week against the Lions and a Vikings loss to the Packers. ‘‘I’ve always been a big Packers fan,’’ a smiling Smith said Sunday. | Rick Scuteri~AP

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Updated: February 22, 2013 2:12AM



GLENDALE, Ariz. — If you ask Lovie Smith what time it is, he’ll tell you the Bears are 9-6. Just like he’ll tell you the Bears are 9-6 if you ask him for directions to the emergency room, what with your leg gushing blood and all.

The 9-6 record matters, but it’s probably worth mentioning the Cardinals, the team that came bearing the ninth victory Sunday, are just dreadful. I mean spectacularly dreadful.

That’s germane to the discussion because the game against the Cardinals and the game next week against the Lions aren’t just about whether the Bears will make the playoffs; they are about What It All Means. The answer is, not much — especially if you happened to get a good look at Cardinals quarterback Ryan Lindley, who was so bad that he got benched in the third quarter of the Bears’ 28-13 victory.

Sometimes it feels as though we’re dealing with parallel universes. On one side, there are Lovie and his Dovies, fighting for victories and a playoff berth; on the other, there are those of us who have seen enough of this team to know it has no business in the playoffs and no business retaining its head coach.

‘‘Big win for our team — 9-6, in position for the biggest game we’ve had in a long time,’’ Smith said.

Well, exactly. The upcoming showdown against the Lions shouldn’t be a big game after the Bears’ 7-1 start to this season, but it is. It shouldn’t be a big game, but it is because the Bears have gone to the playoffs only once in the last five seasons.

So now it comes down to one game — or does it? Does Smith’s future really boil down to the game against the Lions? That’s the wrong question. The right one: Should Smith’s future come down to the game against the Lions? The answer is no.

That game shouldn’t make a bit of difference. The McCaskeys have seen Lovie’s body of work, and not even a trip to the playoffs should affect the bigger picture. They should know by now whether they want him or not.

One or two more games shouldn’t change anybody’s opinion of Smith, not after nine seasons of this and no Super Bowl victories.

If the Bears beat the Lions and the Vikings lose to the Packers, the Bears are in the playoffs. That’s how bizarre this bizarre season has become: Bears fans who want their team to make the playoffs have to root for the hated Packers next week.

‘‘I’ve always been a big Packers fan,’’ Smith said, smiling.

You Bears fans have decisions to make. Do you root for your team to lose to the Lions because it could lead to Smith losing his job and the possibility of a new, better coach coming in? Or do you root for your sworn enemy, the Packers, because it will help the Bears get into the playoffs?

I don’t envy your gray areas. To those of us in the nine-years-are-enough camp, it seems obvious.

The McCaskeys worry me because of their inherent McCaskeyness, which always seems to keep them on a path that leads to the least amount of disruption and indigestion. That points to Smith getting a contract extension and, for everyone else, the prospect of watching wheels spin for another three or four years. Quite the spectator sport.

The Bears beat the Cardinals in the usual way, with two defensive touchdowns and an offense still not there all these weeks into the season. Jay Cutler had six consecutive incompletions to start the game, finished with 146 passing yards and had a passer rating of 76.8.

‘‘It wasn’t pretty,’’ he said. ‘‘We made some plays when we had to make some plays.’’

‘‘I stunk the field up,’’ said wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who still was talking about accountability but not about people losing jobs, which is progress for him and his team.

So here the Bears are at 9-6, with a chance of getting into the playoffs if a couple of things go right and they don’t do all sorts of things wrong. Football fever, catch it.

‘‘Another week to hope,’’ Smith said.

He said that as though it were a good thing.



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