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Bears coach Smith, GM Angelo ink contract extensions

3/1/2007 - NFL Chicago Bears

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Lovie Smith walked into the conference
room and took a seat at the center of the dais, which seemed
fitting, considering he was in the middle of a storm the past few
weeks.

To his left was team president Ted Phillips. To his right,
general manager Jerry Angelo. And in front of Smith was the
security he craved.

Less than a month after reaching the Super Bowl, the Chicago Bears resolved a major issue Wednesday night when they agreed on an
extension with Smith that runs through 2011. They also locked in
Angelo through 2013.

Smith said Thursday he had no doubts the Bears would
give him the contract extension he wanted, so he never envisioned
himself coaching elsewhere -- despite numerous reports to the
contrary, including one from his agent.

"As late as down at the combine [last week] I thought I made it
clear that I thought it would get done, that I hoped it would get
done," Smith said.

The lowest-paid coach in the NFL last season at $1.35 million,
Smith would have earned $1.45 million in the final season of a
four-year contract.


Instead, ESPN.com's John Clayton reported, Smith agreed to a four-year, $22 million extension. Under the new deal, Smith will now get roughly $2 million of the $22 million from the extension this year for a total of about $3.45 million in '07. The team shifted around some other money, but in the end, Smith, who took the Bears to the Super Bowl, joined the elite $5 million club of head coaches.

The process wasn't easy.

Smith and team president Phillips met Wednesday at Halas Hall
and the deal was announced that night. It was a sharp turnaround,
considering Smith's agent Frank Bauer said a week earlier the talks
had stalled and that his client would likely leave when his
contract expired after the 2007 season. And the negotiations did
little to boost the image of a franchise that is perceived to be
stingy.

"We did take a beating," Phillips said. "Maybe short term we
took a little damage. I don't think long term we did because I know
how we operate, internally. ... There's no leftover hard feelings,
whatsoever."

Phillips said he made an offer to Smith before the playoffs that
was rejected, and the sides agreed to wait until afterward.
Phillips came back with "a substantially increased offer" two
days after the Super Bowl.

"I never thought it was contentious," Phillips said. "It got
a little stressful after Frank made his comments, but I chose not
to respond publicly. Could it have gotten done quicker if the
combine wasn't there? Maybe so."

Smith wasn't seeking additional say in personnel. And Phillips
said they never haggled over the length of the contract. The issue
was, simply, money.

The NFL Coach of the Year in 2005, Smith led the Bears to a 13-3
record and the top seed in the NFC last season. Chicago then beat
Seattle and New Orleans before losing to Indianapolis in the Super
Bowl -- its first since the 1985 Bears won the championship.

Although Smith is staying, the coaching staff has a different
look.

Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera is gone. So are quarterbacks
coach Wade Wilson, defensive line coach Don Johnson and assistant
offensive line coach Harold Goodwin.

Rivera, who interviewed for eight head coaching jobs the past
two years, is now San Diego's linebackers coach after the Bears
opted not to renew his contract. Wilson took a job with Dallas.

The Bears promoted Bob Babich from linebackers coach to
defensive coordinator, and they hired Hardy Nickerson as
linebackers coach and Brick Haley as defensive line coach.

"We haven't achieved our goal yet, but we have a little bit
more time to do it," Smith said. "I feel blessed to be the head
football coach of the Chicago Bears. ... I have the best job in the
National Football League."

Phillips said he always felt confident in Smith, even "as far
back as a year ago" when the coach sought an extension after the
Bears went 11-5 and reached the playoffs for the first time since
2001. He just wanted more time to make sure this was the right
"fit going forward."

Phillips said he felt a sense of urgency to complete a deal now,
even though Smith had a year left on his contract.

"You'd probably have to go back to the early Ditka days to say
that a [Bears] head coach's contract wasn't extended with a year
left," Phillips said. "Was there a sense of urgency? Yeah, there
was. ... I wanted to make sure Jerry and Lovie were taken care of.
I think in the end, they both received fair market deals."

Phillips said Angelo's deal came together the past few weeks.
"We had been talking off and on six or seven weeks," he said.
"It was just a matter of getting the time together to just focus
on that instead of the hundred other things that we do."

With Angelo and Smith setting the tone, the Bears rose to the
top of the NFC.

Angelo has mixed veterans and young players since he was hired
on June 12, 2001, while Smith emphasized speed on defense and
installed the Cover 2.

"Lovie's a great coach," defensive tackle Tommie Harris said.
"He exudes excellence to me. He's just a guy who's always cool,
calm and collective, and I knew hard work had to pay off."

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com's John Clayton was used in this report.