Chicago retains sought-after veteran on staff

Reacting to requests from other franchises who sought to interview Bob Babich for higher-profile positions on their staff, the Chicago Bears on Friday promoted the veteran linebackers coach to assistant head coach/linebackers.

It was not immediately known if Babich received a contract extension or a raise as part of the promotion.

"He brings quite a bit to the table," Bears head coach Lovie Smith told the team's Web site. "It's a well-deserved promotion. Bob had an opportunity to go and interview for the [defensive] coordinator position with the Buffalo Bills. He didn't do that. He chose to stay here. We haven't finished the job yet that we set out to do."

The Bills sought permission earlier this week to interview Babich for the coordinator spot on coach Dick Jauron's staff. There were rumors that other teams as well, most notably the Detroit Lions, might want to meet with Babich about staff openings. The promotion to assistant head coach all but ensures Babich will remain with the Bears at least through the 2006 season.

Babich, 44, has been in the league just three seasons but has gained quick respect, and it probably is just a matter of time until he move up to the coordinator level. It's likely, in fact, that Babich would have been elevated to that role had Chicago defensive coordinator Ron Rivera landed any of the several head coaching jobs for which he has interviewed since the 2005 season ended.

A close friend of Smith, with whom he played and coached together on the college level, Babich was the first assistant hired by Smith when he took the Bears' job in 2004. The 2003 season was Babich's first in the NFL, as he worked with the St. Louis Rams.

Before moving to the Chicago staff, Babich worked as a college coach at Tulsa (1984-87 and 1990), Wisconsin (1988-89), Bowling Green (1991), East Carolina (1993-93), Pitt (1994-96) and North Dakota State (1997-2002). He was the head coach at North Dakota State for his entire tenure there.

"I love working here with the Chicago Bears, working with Coach Smith and Ron Rivera, and the rest of the coaching staff," Babich said in a statement released by the team. "I'm very excited about it and looking forward to many great years with the Bears."

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.