One minute Phil Emery was asked about the Super Bowl. The next minute he was asked about Lovie Smith's job status.
One way or another, this is going to be an interesting Bears season.
While optimism ruled the day when Emery and Smith met the media Tuesday afternoon at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Emery left little doubt that Smith's job is on the line in 2012. When Emery was hired in February, Smith was the only part of the organization below him he could not touch. But only for a year.
Judging by the way Emery has taken control since replacing Jerry Angelo as general manager, it's pretty clear that while Emery totally respects the job Smith does as the Bears' head coach, he still has to see results to convince him that Smith is his long-term coach.
Asked a general question about Smith ''and the job he's done,'' Emery supported his coach but also volunteered his ''expectations'' for 2012.
''Well, I will say going into the job that I knew we had a fine football coach,'' Emery said. ''So I started there, having been [with the Bears] when Lovie first arrived and spending about five months around him during the draft process, which he was very involved with.
''And then coming back during the inteview process, I felt very good. I felt that was a positive, coming in as a first-time general manager that Lovie Smith was our head coach. I think he's a very fine coach, even a better person. He cares about our team. He cares about the people in our building. He's a guy that unifies people. He doesn't creat cliques. He creates unity. And I feel very good about that.
''As far as my expectations, it's the same as I put on myself. I said this when I first came in: We expect to be experts at our given jobs. And our goal is excellence and coming together to win championships and that's my expectations -- to make steady progress towards those goals.''
The Bears have been to the Super Bowl and an NFC Championship Game under Smith. But they've also failed to make the playoffs in four of the past five seasons. Does Emery consider this Year 1 with Smith, or does he consider this a team that has not made the playoffs in four of the last five seasons?
''I consider this a team that has goals,'' Emery said. ''And we want to make progress towards those goals daily and weekly -- every Sunday, towards those goals. And I want to know where that direction is. It won't be Week 1, Week 2. It'll be at the end of the season.
''I want to know what the direction of our team is daily and weekly toward attaining our goals, and that's how I'll determine it. Are we achieving excellence? Are we moving towards our goals or not?''
Measuring progress is subjective. If the McCaskeys like you, progress could be defined as winning the last game of a losing season. Finally, Peggy Kusinski of Channel 5 asked the key question regarding Smith's future: Is it possible for the Bears to be making progress toward their goal and still not make the playoffs?'' In other words, can Lovie keep his job without making the playoffs?
The answer is yes, Emery said, pending the circumstances. This is my scenario, not his: Let's say the Bears are 7-3 with a five-game winning streak and looking like the biggest threat to the Packers in the NFC, but Jay Cutler gets hurt and the Bears lose five consecutive games and miss the postseason. Best bet is Lovie would survive. Quite the irony considering that's the scenario that led to the surprising -- no, stunning -- firing of Angelo and the hiring of Emery.
"It's possible [the Bears could still be making progress without making the playoffs], because it depends on the health of the team, what's happened in the season, what's happening in the rest of the NFL,'' Emery said. ''I was with the Chiefs last year and everybody counted us out. It came down to getting a blocked kick against Oakland in the last game and we would've made the playoffs.
"Seasons can roll that way. What I'm looking for is where we are as a team and have we moved toward our goal. A lot of that falls on me; do we have the right people in place to provide these coaches the opportunity to put that team together? I'll start with myself and ask that question."