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Lots of questions came in today and I am going to get to as many as I can. Here we go.

Q: I don't understand how the Bears can give Lovie Smith another year after three non-playoff seasons just because he has two years left on his deal. If he is facing a playoffs or else 2010, why not make the move now when some of the best coaches in the sport are out on the market? And if they are worried about the 2011 lockout, would they actually bring him back to fulfill the final year if he misses the playoffs again? It is going to be very difficult to bring in a big offensive coordinator under Lovie given his tenuous status. And given how stubborn Lovie has been in sticking with his schemes and gameplans, that's another year of trying to bring in personnel to fit his Cover 2 defense. Who do you think would be a better fit for the Bears: Bill Cowher or Mike Shanahan? Cowher probably brings a better front office team and his personality and style would be a big hit in this town yet Shanahan is an Illinois native who would provide an elite offensive mentor for Cutler but has struggled in building a defense when he has the personnel control.

Joe B., Oxford, Conn.

A: I don't have an explanation for every move that has been made at Halas Hall in the past. Dave Wannstedt went 4-12 in 1997 and returned the next season to, you know, go 4-12 all over again. I agree with you that it might make it tough for Smith to find a top offensive coordinator if he is under a win-or-else mandate, but Mike Martz could be available and I've already covered the ties there and Martz's stated desire to work with Cutler. Bringing back Smith might make it difficult for the Bears in 2010, but there are still five games remaining and I am interested to see how they fare with little left to play for than pride. I don't see the McCaskeys shooting for the moon with Cowher or Shanahan or another top guy. General manager Jerry Angelo has said on the record that the franchise is not going to set the bar for pay at positions. Do you think they are going to set the bar for pay with a coach? Do you think they're going to show Angelo the door with four years left on his contract? I don't. That's like saying, "Jerry, Arizona or Florida, where do you want us to pay for you to live for the next four years?" Cowher might demand complete control. Ditto Shanahan. I'm just going off past history--the best indicator for future results--when I say it's unlikely. Does anyone know something I don't about this situation? Shanahan is a popular choice but he wasn't super involved with Cutler in Denver. Jeremy Bates and Mike Heimerdinger did a lot of the work with Cutler. Shanahan also hasn't won much of anything since John Elway retired. Remember back in April when I wrote about Cutler needing to do a better job with ball security and the masses coming out and blaming his 18 interceptions on one of the worst defenses the NFL had seen in, oh, a decade? That was Shanahan's defense. However, I think if Gary Kubiak gets the axe in Houston, Shanahan could instantly become an even better candidate for any job because he could get the old gang together again. Many of Kubiak's people were also with Shanahan in Denver previously. The Bears might aim for lesser name coaches, but I'm not going to speculate on possible names right now because that is all it would be, total speculation. Let's allow this thing to play out here. Smith is the coach. He's got a deal through 2011. And who cares that Shanahan is from Illinois? That's as tiring to me as the idea that the Bears should seek a coach with past ties to the organization. That's neither here nor there, ever.


I will be dipping into the mailbag later this afternoon or tonight for Four Down Territory. Go ahead and send your questions in and I will get to as many as possible. Thanks.

Had some questions pile up in the mailbox the last few days, so let's bat out a couple questions before getting the day started. Here we go.


Q: So much for the great Gaines Adams trade. Can we write him off as a bust, or is it too early? What gives. I thought he was an instant upgrade for the incredibly disappearing pass rush?

Jerome I., Chicago

A: No one promised a bang when Adams arrived three weeks ago for a second-round draft pick. He's been used sparingly vs. Cincinnati and Cleveland, and even was in on punt return against the Browns. He's still working to get acclimated to the system, the team, the coaches. Granted, the pass rush hasn't been nearly what it should be over the last few weeks, but Adams is the last person you can blame for that. The trade for him was made with the long range in mind and I'm going to keep an open mind on it. I think it was good value for a guy that scouts and coaches from other organizations said was a good pass rusher. Like I said at the time of the deal, Adams doesn't have to justify his status as the fourth pick in the 2007 draft to the Bears. He has to provided second-round value for them. I'm pretty sure he can do that. Until he gets into a steady rotation, the Bears need to count on a better pass rush from those players on the field. Adams has been a pro and isn't clamoring for playing time. Let's give this one a little time. Plus, I think he needs to hit the weight room.

Anquan.jpg

It's Wednesday, the start of a busy week of preparation for Sunday's game with Arizona, but let's jump into the mailbag before we get rolling.

Q: What do you think the chances are Anquan Boldin will play Sunday?

Mark B., Hammond, Ind.

A: The Cardinals said Boldin would be day-to-day on Monday, one day after he aggravated his sprained right ankle in Arizona's loss to Carolina. The injury first occurred back on Oct. 11 and as Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic points out, the Cardinals may have to make the difficult decision of sitting Boldin on Sunday to ensure that he can heal up moving forward here. No one is going to question the toughness of Boldin, who missed only two games last season after surgery to repair fractures in his jaw and sinus, a result of a vicious hit by Eric Smith of the New York Jets.

"If I'm good enough to play, I'm going to play," Boldin told reporters in Arizona on Monday. "If I'm able to run, I'm going to play football."

But Somers makes a case that Boldin is hurting the team right now and the Cardinals would be better off with Steve Breaston as the foil to Larry Fitzgerald with Jerheme Urban and/or Early Doucet getting expanded opportunities.

And that leads me back to Fitzgerald. There's a very worthwhile piece on him by ESPN.com's Mike Sando that I suggest you check out. Would you believe he's averaging just 10.8 yards per reception? That's more than three yards off the pace he was on last season. The wide receiver who obliterated the postseason record books has a long catch of 27 yards this season. Now, the injuries to Boldin have something to do with it, but defenses have long honored Fitzgerald as Arizona's No. 1 target.

"It seems like every time we try to throw it down the field, we're getting Cover 2," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "It's a guessing game."

The Cardinals, once again, don't have much in the way of a running game. As one scout said, you can go with six defenders in the box against them and not worry too often about being pounded. That gives a defense extra tacklers downfield to bring down Fitzgerald and prevent him from breaking the big one. But none of this is new. There's no new scheme to slow him down. Kurt Warner, despite the protests of Fitzgerald's younger brother earlier this season, isn't the problem.

It probably will not last all season, but if it continues for another week it's good for the Bears, who know a little something about Cover 2.


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