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Bears GM intent on extending Smith's tenure as coach

A year ago, fans called for Lovie Smith to be fired. Now, he's in line for a contract extension.

General manager Jerry Angelo made it clear Monday he'd like to keep the coach around after the Chicago Bears advanced to the NFC Championship Game, ultimately losing to the rival Green Bay Packers.

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"We very much want to extend Lovie for the job that he's done and his staff," Angelo said. "Our focus, our intent, is to extend Lovie. As I said, we wanted to wait until the season's over. The season is officially over for us, and that will be part of the business at hand the next several weeks."

A wild season in which the Bears made a dramatic turnaround to reach the playoffs for the first time in four years ended Sunday with a 21-14 loss to the Packers at Soldier Field.

The way they struggled early in the season made it hard to envision the Bears going so far. But a 7-1 run saved their season and, possibly, their coach's job. It now appears unlikely Smith will go into next season with an expiring contract.

Smith has one year left on the extension he signed after the 2006 Super Bowl season, and the Bears appear to be in better shape after winning the NFC North with an 11-5 record and earning a first-round playoff bye. That gave them three division titles and a 63-49 record in seven seasons under Smith, who had little to say about his contract.

"I've loved being the head football coach of the Chicago Bears every day I've been here and hope to be here for many years to come," he said.

There are other issues for the Bears to address besides their coach's contract.

Six-time Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz's deal is up. The same goes for defensive tackle Anthony Adams, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, safety/kick returner Danieal Manning and punter Brad Maynard.

Asked if he'll be back, Kreutz said: "That's not my call. I'll keep trying to play. I've said it a million times when you're not good enough, the NFL will let you know. So if no one wants me, I'll retire. If someone wants me, I'll play."

Adams made it clear he wants to stay, saying: "Definitely. My kids were born here. I have a great group of guys, great coaching staff." And he expects to be back.

Tinoisamoa isn't sure what's in store for him. He was limited this season by a knee injury after sitting out almost all of 2009, and the possibility that his career is winding down after eight seasons is hitting him.

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NFL Replay will re-air the Green Bay Packers' 21-14 win over the Chicago  Bears in the NFC Championship Game on Wednesday,

Jan. 26 at 10:15 p.m. ET.

"I'm a little emotional about that," he said. "Kind of insecure, too, honestly. I'm like, 'Man, is he looking at me like I'm going to get cut?' These are my teammates, I'm talking about. ... That's my own thoughts in my own crazy head that I have to deal with. The truth is I only signed a one-year contract. It'll be up soon. I'm getting older. I don't know what the situation is going to be, but I know this team is going to be all right."

The Northwest Heraldreported Monday that defensive tackle Tommie Harris, who has been with the Bears for seven seasons, said he plans to retire after 10 years in the NFL.

"I feel like I'm very intelligent," he said, via the Herald. "I have businesses. I've had a lot of injuries in this league, and I have kids."

A year ago, the Bears were a mess.

Fans called for Smith and Angelo to be dismissed after a seven-win season and third consecutive playoff miss, but instead of a pink slip, they got a reprieve.

Smith retooled his coaching staff, particularly on the offensive side, hiring Mike Martz as coordinator and Mike Tice as the line coach. Smith also stripped himself of play-calling duties on defense and promoted Rod Marinelli from defensive line coach to coordinator.

All those moves were overshadowed in free agency.

The Bears made a huge splash, signing Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers to a six-year deal worth up to $91.5 million, and he paid big dividends. It didn't hurt that linebacker Brian Urlacher regained his old Pro Bowl form after missing most of last season with a wrist injury.

Suddenly, the Bears' defense was among the league's stingiest -- just as it was when Chicago made the playoffs in 2005 and 2006.

The offense? Well, that took time.

Quarterback Jay Cutler was pounded, particularly in the early going, and was sacked a league-leading 52 times. The offensive line was a mess early on, injuries and poor play forcing the Bears to juggle the lineup. The running game was ignored, and three ugly losses in four games left Chicago stumbling into its break at 4-3.

It was hard to envision the Bears going on a playoff run, yet that's exactly what they did, winning seven of eight games before closing the regular season with a loss at Green Bay.

The Bears committed to the run. The blocking improved. Even so, the offense ranked 30th this season, and that long-running disparity with the defense remains.

"It hasn't gone without effort," Angelo said. "We brought in Pro Bowlers in the (unrestricted free agent) market, veteran offensive line, receivers, running backs, you name it. And we went out and traded for Jay Cutler. So it's not a lack of effort. It's just got to come together, but I will say this: I feel good about what the offense did given we had a first-year coordinator come in and a new offensive line coach, a whole new offense, a new cast of young players.

"It wasn't a veteran offensive group," he added. "I thought the guys came together pretty good. ... We won a lot of football games and it wasn't solely because of the defense. The offense did their share and special teams, too."

So was it a successful season?

"It was a success," Angelo said. "I'm still here."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore (12) makes a deep catch as Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Kyzir White (44) trails on the play during an NFL football game , Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif.

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