Lovie Smith is under the weather. He was fighting a cold when he talked with reporters for 16 minutes in a teleconference Tuesday afternoon. You've seen the news sliced and diced every direction by now.
Here's a chance to read a transcript of the session and draw your own conclusions to his explanation of the Bears' moves two weeks into their offseason:
As we go into championship weekend, a nine-win team is going to the Super Bowl. That is why I say we're not far away. Once you get in the playoffs, anything can happen. But for us the first step in the offseason, of course we evaluate everything we did last year and what we're going to do for the coming season, but the first step for me was to complete the staff and I'm pretty excited about some of the new additions to our staff. Offensively, the staff will remain the same. Ron will still coordinate the [offense] and Harry Hiestand, Pep Hamilton, Rob Boras, Tim Spencer, Darryl Drake, Luke Butkus and Charles London will remain in their same jobs as last year. And special teams-wise, Dave Toub will still coordinate the special teams and Chris Tabor will assist him, so we're excited about that.
On the defensive side of the ball, we do have some changes. That's where some of my excitement comes in. First off, brining Rod Marinelli on board. Rod will be our assistant head coach and he will coach the defensive line. He will help me with some of the head coaching duties. I have worked with Rod in the past. I know what he brings, he's an excellent teacher, communicator, motivator, you guys will see once you get a chance to be around Rod, what he will bring to our defense. Bob Babich will continue to coordinate the defense. Along with, Bob before he became coordinator, did an excellent job of coaching our linebackers. Bob will be our linebackers coach also. So he'll take on those additional duties of coaching our linebackers. We also hired Jon Hoke as our new defensive backs coach. Jon was with the Houston Texans last year. I've known Jon really since he was the coordinator back at the University of Florida and I was the linebackers coach at Tampa. So he'll bring a lot to the table. Gill Byrd will remain our assistant secondary coach. I really like what Gill brings to the table as a coach and Eric Washington will remain our defensive assistant and he'll work with Rod with the defensive line.
As a head football coach, I've been involved throughout, a little bit with the offense, a little bit with the special teams, but most of my involvement has been with the defense and I'll be even more involved this year. With Bob taking on the linebacker duties, that doesn't necessarily free him up, but with additional duties I will be helping him coordinate the defense. As a staff, we haven't gotten the staff together completely right now, Rod and Jon will get in a little bit later on and then we'll go into some more of the details as to who will be doing what. My involvement with the defense, I've had involvement. I had involvement early on when we were one of the best defenses in the league and I've had a lot of involvement the past couple years when we haven't. Some of these changes I've made I think will help us get back to that position. I'm excited about taking a more hands-on approach to helping our defense get back to where it was. Besides that, again, the first step was getting our coaching staff together and we've got that. We have the Senior Bowl coming up shortly. We have combine coming up so I am looking forward to tweaking the scheme a little bit, we have tweaked our coaching staff a little bit, and looking forward to tweaking the personnel a little bit also. Again, we're close. I think we've already started for the next year.
WHAT ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT TWEAKING THE SCHEME?
No more than what I talk about each week. First off, scheme wise, we're not changing our scheme. I believe fully in the scheme we are running. Each year when I say tweak, you try to improve some of the things you have done and that's what we'll do. Every coach on our staff, our players, we all believe in what we're doing. We're going to do it better and that's the way we're going to make our stand back up to the top.
IN FIRING 3 ASSISTANTS IT HAS CREATED A PERCEPTION THAT THEY WERE SCAPEGOATS AND BY KEEPING BABICH AS COORDINATOR, HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THE DECISION?
Well, first off, when you say coordinator, I have changed. Just looking at the entire staff, first off, I wasn't happy with what we did. I evaluate our group each year and that's what I did this past year. After my evaluation, I thought these changes were necessary. Getting rid of Bob Babich was not a part of that. Bob's duties have changed like all of guys' duties have changed. But no one is in the same position that they were defensively last year so there weren't any scapegoats. The guys I thought that didn't need to be here any more, we needed to go a different direction from, we did that. The ones that stayed, I think these guys all bring something to the table. Our linebackers, Brian Urlacher's [defensive player of the year] season was with Bob as his linebacker coach. That's the guy that you would like to stay here and keep here and try to adjust and build on some of his strengths.
SO ARE WE TO UNDERSTAND YOU WILL BE INVOLVED IN CALLING THE DEFENSIVE SIGNALS?
Yes, that's exactly what I said. Again, I have been involved a little bit. My involvement will be a lot more now in that situation. For some reason offensive coaches, there are quite a few offensive coaches that do that. There are not a lot of defensive guys but for me, I look at the situation as a situation develops and now for us, I think this is what will help us get back to where we need to be.
IN EVALUATING YOUR STAFF, DID YOU NEED MORE NFL EXPERIENCE?
No, I can't say that it is just experience. It's about getting the best possible coach to first off help our players improve and get us in a better position to win. Yeah, a lot of times that is a more experienced coach. But it's more than that. I don't think years of service necessarily make you that much better as a coach. And the guys we are bringing in, Jon Hoke, Rod Marinelli, they're just good football coaches. That's what we're trying to do. When you don't like exactly where you are, you need to do something to change things up and that's what we've done. We have taken that approach every year I have been here. We evaluate it, here it doesn't matter if we're on a Super Bowl season or a 9-7 or a 5-11 year, we evaluate and make decisions and go from there and that's what we've done. Again, I like the additions that we've added. Our players will be excited about the new guys that they will be working with.
WAS JOE BARRY CONSIDERED AS A LINEBACKERS COACH?
I considered every coach available out there. Just like every time we have a roster spot open, we consider all players available, and then you go from there.
JUST TO CLARIFY, WILL IT BE A COLLABORATION AS FAR AS CALLING DEFENSIVE SIGNALS OR WILL YOU BE THE GUY CALLING THE DEFENSE?
Right now, instead of me going over exactly how we're going to do that, what I said is that I'm going to be more involved with the play-calling and everything else. There are very few situations where one guy calls every play. Offensively, defensively and special teams, you all incorporate the game plan and go from20there. Will I be more in the lead position in that role? Yes, I will. But again, Jon and Rod aren't here yet. We haven't met together as a staff yet, so it would be premature for me to go over exactly how everything is going to work right now. What I can tell you is about the guys that we have coming in and what they're going to bring to the table.
WORRIED YOU'RE GOING TO BE BITING OFF TOO MUCH?
No. I'm a big boy, and after five years in this role, I think you find out exactly how much time you have and where you have time to do a few more things. This past year I coached the nickels for about half of the season and enjoyed that quite a bit. So I saw that I had a little bit more time to do some of these things. And as someone mentioned earlier, there are a lot of offensive coaches in the league that call plays, that do a little bit more on their side of the ball where their expertise is. For some reason, a lot of defensive coaches haven't done it. But I think it's time to change some of that.
DID YOU MISS PLAY-CALLING SINCE YOU LAST DID IT IN ST. LOUIS?
I think all head coaches would tell you that they miss being able to have a position and some of the hands-on coaching you get a chance to do by having your own position, and of course some of the play-calling, you miss that. That's what you've done all your life. So, yes, I would definitely say that. Every year I've missed some of that. But it's not far away. It's not like I haven't been involved in the play-calling. I don't want to say that at all. I have been. This past year in some of our worst games that we played, I was involved in that, and I realize that, and together we're going to all make it right.
JERRY SAID ESTABLISHING COMPETITION FOR KYLE WAS A TOP PRIORITY. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT AND WHERE KYLE STANDS?
Well, first off, I don't think Jerry said that our No. 1 priority was that. Jerry talked about the quarterback position and he needed to see more from Kyle. You heard my statements, our statements, Ron, all of us around here, and Jerry's saying the same thing. We like what Kyle Orton was able to do this past year. Ten minutes after our last game, as I was asked about our quarterback position, I talked about Kyle Orton then. I'm saying the same thing now. I think our quarterback position is in the best shape it's been in going into the offseason. I'm excited about Kyle Orton having a chance to go into the offseason as a No. 1 quarterback, getting a chance to work with the receivers, taking the majority of the reps and things like that. But at the same time, there's a good chance that Rex Grossman won't be with us next year. Rex has other options and things like that. I think as much as anything Jerry was probably talking about that, of bringing in another quarterback. Just in general, you need so20many quarterbacks in here. Again, we don't want it to sound like we don't have faith in Kyle Orton. It's the complete opposite. I have a lot of faith in him and what he can do for our team.
IF YOU BRING IN A QUARTERBACK WILL IT BE AS A BACKUP OR SOMEONE TO COMPETE FOR THE STARTING JOB?
Every job we have is a job where you come in and you have a chance to compete. We start off from scratch every year. That's what I say at the end. That's what I'm saying now. As we bring a guy in, you don't look for guys that have backup-type physical ability. You're looking for guys with starter-type ability with every man on your 53-man roster, and that's what we'll do at all positions. Quarterback is no different.
AT ANY POINT WERE YOU WORRIED MARINELLI MIGHT LAND SOMEWHERE ELSE?
I just knew that it was a perfect fit for Rod to be here. It takes a while in the coaching profession to build up relationships where you work with someone the way Rod and I have had a chance to work together, from the start, getting our start at the same time, of building this defense up, and knowing exactly what you need to do to play it at a high level. So to think that Rod would go somewhere else, I was just hoping he wouldn't. I knew that most teams would try to get Rod and I'm just glad that he liked what he saw from our program, and Rod looked at the program. He looked at our defensive line. I know he's excited about getting a chance to coach Tommie Harris, Alex Brown, Mark Anderson, Marcus Harrison, Dusty ... all of the different guys that we have. Adewale Ogunleye, Israel Idonije, I know he's excited about all of those players and we're going to let him go. He will bring a lot to our ballclub, not just our defensive line.
HOW DID BABICH TAKE THE NEWS HE WAS GOING TO BE THE LINEBACKERS COACH AND YOU WOULD BE ASSERTING MORE CONTROL ON DEFENSE?
Bob is a team player. He's excited about ... we didn't meet our expectations this past year and in the offseason you look to try to make improvements the best you can, and Bob is excited about that. Again, he's excited about having a more hands-on approach with Brian and Lance and Nick and Jamar and all of our guys, along with other duties. And just because I'm going to be more involved doesn't mean that Bob [isn't] our defensive coordinator. There will be a lot of things that he'll be helping me do.
WILL YOU MAKE PERSONNEL CHANGES ON THE DEFENSIVE LINE?
In the offseason you're always looking to improve your ballclub, and that's what we'll do. Just right now before we get our defensive line coach in, this is the group that we have. But we'll start player evaluations as soon as Rod gets in and go from there. But all those players I mentioned are like our defensive line. But you're trying to add good players to every position that we had. We were 9-7. That's not good enough. We need to do better. So you have to look at all areas for improvement.
IS IT HARD TO WATCH THE PLAYOFFS?
It's harder, period. Just because we're a nine-win team and a Super Bowl participant is also doesn't make it any easier. We're not in the playoffs. That's not as good feeling, It hurts to watch. But at the same time, you see how things can change. Last year Arizona wasn't talking about that. Philly has had a couple of lean years. And that's what it shows you, that you can get right back up there. Baltimore was 5-11 last year, whatever, and that's the excitement about making changes and then getting ready for the next run. Also, you see in our league it's hard winning games in the league, it really is, and once you start talking about winning more games than you've lost, just a few more little things, then you can get over the hump.