Lovie Smith said he feels he is in a ''win-or-else'' situation in 2012 -- but no moreso than in the previous eight seasons as the Bears' head coach.
''Every year I've been a head football coach and pretty much as a position coach, I felt like we had to win the next year or else,'' Smith said Thursday morning at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. ''There's a standard that we're going to try to get accomplished. That hasn't changed at all.''
New Bears general manager Phil Emery was hired to replace Jerry Angelo with the stipulation that he retain Smith as head coach for at least the 2012 season. Emery doesn't come across as one of those guys who needs his own head coach, but he's free to make a change after the upcoming season. If the Bears don't make the playoffs in 2012, it will be the fifth time in six seasons they will not have played in the postseason.
''As far as more pressure, [the] new GM having to keep me, I don't think any of the guys looked at it that way. Hopefully they looked at it as a great situation they were coming into, a team that two years ago was in the NFC Championship game, a team that was 7-3 this past year before injuries happened. I don't look at it that way."
Smith had not met the media since the season review the day after the Bears concluded the 2011 season with a victory over the Vikings. So while he typically avoided specifics (''We're trying to get better at all positions.'') he did address some key issues for the first time. To wit:
On the firing of Jerry Angelo:
''We know our profession and what's at stake always and changes can happen at any time. I'm here primarily because of what Jerry Angelo did for me, leading the charge to give me an opportunity to be the head football coach here.
''I can't necessarily say it was a surprise at the end of the year. I don't think any coach or GM in the league is surprised by anything that happens. Again, Jerry did an awful lot for us. But you move on. And that's what we've done. Jerry will be fine. He's a lifetime friend. But you do move on.''
On hiring Mike Tice to replace Mike Martz as offensive coordinator:
''When you start over, I always look at what we need to do to take another step and I thought this is what we needed to do.
''As far as why I went with Mike Tice, the last couple of years I've had a chance to see Mike in a lot of different roles, with what he was able to do with the offensive line. And I just thought what Mike believed in and what I really believe in would be a good fit. And a good fit for us.''
On upgrading the wide receiver position:
''In the offseason we look to improve our ballclub - wide receiver, linebacker, defensive line, o-line, running back, the works, coaching staff. Wide receiver is a part of that."
Will Gabe Carimi be ready to start the offseason program?
''Hopefully so. He's working hard. When I say hopefully, I don't know exactly when Gabe will be ready right now off the top of my head. I just know I see him every day working and everything is going as planned and there's no reason to think ... we're excited about what Gabe Carimi will bring. We talk adding pieces and I look at him as a free agent we're adding to the mix. He's a first-round draft pick who barely played for us last year."
On Johnny Knox's recovery from a spinal fracture:
''I'm just counting on him to get better each day and we'll see how it all plays out. There's a long road to recovery. We have time. So we'll just see how it plays out. Johnny's ready to go. Of course, he's one of our guys. And I'm hoping that he'll be OK.''
On Jay Cutler's thumb injury:
''Jay Cutler's thumb is fine. So we can't see anything major with injuries that we're going to have to deal with coming up.''
On upgrading the backup quarterback position:
''We thought we had a better plan at the quarterback position. I knew how valuable Jay was to us. That won't change. But we do need to get ourselves in a better position at that backup quarterback position.
''We have a lot of options out there. I think this is an attractive place for a quarterback. We're going to look at all people. And I'm talking Caleb, Josh and free-agent quarterbacks out there. I just feel like we'll be able to strengthen that position more than we were this past year.''