A promising season for the Chicago Bears has grown troubled down the stretch as coach Lovie Smith's team has lost four of its past five games.
The late-season swoon has negatively impacted contract talks between the team and its coach, according CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora, who cited sources in reporting that discussions over an extension have "dried up." That might force Smith -- who signed a two-year extension before last season -- into lame-duck status entering 2013.
First-year Bears general manager Phil Emery has been given authority to evaluate the coaching staff, which might loom as a troubling sign for Smith if he fails to take Chicago somewhere special. La Canfora hinted that Emery might pluck fruit off the Bill Belichick tree for the next Bears coach.
Smith isn't about to be fired. As it stands, the longtime coach has the rest of this campaign and another full season to shape perceptions in Chicago, but it's far from a vote of confidence.
Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.