FOX Sports Exclusive
Bears, Lovie Smith agree to extension
The Chicago Bears have agreed to terms with coach Lovie Smith on a two-year contract extension that keeps him with the club through 2013, the team announced Friday.
The extension comes after the Bears went 11-5 this past season and narrowly lost to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game.
"Every day I've been on the job, the goal has been to do the best possible job that I could, and I could live with the results," Smith said. "With three years on my contract, I feel pretty good about that."
General manager Jerry Angelo had said last month that the Bears planned to sign Smith to an extension.
Smith said Friday at the NFL Combine that he was happy to get the deal done. He gave his coaching staff credit for helping him get the new deal.
"I'm in position to be here and get that extension based on what the players and our staff has done," he said. "They all did a great job."
Smith said he expects quarterback Jay Cutler to lead the way. Cutler was criticized for sitting out most of the second half of the playoff loss to Green Bay, but doctors later found he had a medial collateral ligament strain in his left knee.
"Just to kind of hit Jay one last time, no, there's no question about Jay's toughness or anything like that," Smith said. "For guys to even challenge that or question that don't know what they're talking about, don't know him. He's as tough as any quarterback in the league."
The Bears hired Mike Martz as the team's offensive coordinator last season, and Smith said it was a success, even though the team ranked 21st in scoring and 30th in yards per game.
"Mike is a great offensive coach," he said. "We did some good things this year offensively. We won 12 games. We ended up in the (NFC) championship game. But Mike, and the rest of our staff, all of us would say we can take another step."
Smith said Cutler and Martz likely will improve in their second year together.
"I think the core is in place, starting with Jay Cutler, our quarterback, leading us," he said. "I wouldn't ask for any other quarterback. I'm excited about him going into that second year with Mike and seeing those improvements on the offensive side."
Smith said the Super Bowl champion Packers have set the bar for his team.
"We realize we have the Super Bowl champs in our division, and we're looking up to them," he said. "We're looking forward to this next year of trying to get ourselves in position where we can hold up the Lombardi trophy."
The Bears have won three NFC North titles and posted three double-digit win totals in the past six seasons (2005, 2006 and 2010) under Smith's tenure. The three division titles since 2005 are the second-most in the NFC (Seattle, four) and tied for fifth-most in the NFL. Since 2005, the Bears are one of just two teams in the NFC (Atlanta) to post three 11-plus win seasons.
Smith has a regular-season coaching record of 63-49 (.563) and is 3-3 in the postseason. His 66 overall wins are third-most in franchise history, trailing only Hall of Famers George Halas and Mike Ditka. He also guided the team to its first Super Bowl appearance in 21 years when Chicago advanced to Super Bowl XLI.
Smith, who became coach in January 2004, was named the Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year for 2005 after becoming the fastest coach in Bears history to lead the team to a division title. He joined Mike Ditka as the only other coach in franchise history to lead the team to consecutive division titles (2005, 2006) and is the first coach in team history to reach the playoffs in two of his first three seasons with the club.
Under Smith, the Bears own a 26-16 regular season record against NFC North opponents and have posted a regular season winning record against all three teams in the division. Chicago is 10-4 against Detroit and 8-6 against both Green Bay and Minnesota.
Since 2004, Chicago’s defense leads the NFL in takeaways (235), opponent third-down efficiency (33.8%), highest percentage of three-and-out drives forced (26.6%) and stuffs (398). The Bears’ defense ranks second in the NFL in interceptions (137) and fumble recoveries (98), third in the Aikman Efficiency Ratings for defense (78.8) and fourth in total points allowed (19.2) since 2004.
Smith is tied for the second-longest tenure in the NFC (Tom Coughlin, New York Giants) and the tied for the fifth-longest tenure in the NFL.
The Chicago Sun-Times notes that general manager Jerry Angelo's contract is also up after the 2013 season. According to Scout.com's John Christ, team president and CEO Ted Phillips' contract is up after the 2013 as well.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
More Stories From Adam Caplan