Commentary

Lovie Smith's future tied to NFL talks?

Originally Published: July 31, 2010
By Adam Schefter | ESPN.com

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Financial uncertainty surrounding the 2011 season already has impacted contracts. Soon enough it could affect coaches.

It is pertinent to raise this issue here, where the Bears are conducting training camp and fans are speculating on coach Lovie Smith's future.

Should there be an extended lockout, which many around the league anticipate, it will make it difficult for any team to change head coaches, be it in Chicago or Cleveland or Jacksonville.

The reasoning is simple: When coaches are fired, new coaches must be hired. And when new coaches are hired, new offenses and defenses must be implemented. But a new coach cannot implement his program when players are locked out and cannot learn their new systems, as they well could be.

Thus Smith's future, as well as the future of any other head coach on the hot seat, could be tied to the lack of a new collective bargaining agreement. As long as there is no football, it will make it difficult to have any firings.

"That's 100 percent correct," said one NFL general manager.

It is part of the reason Dallas extended the contract of coach Wade Phillips despite the fact that the Cowboys flamed out in the divisional playoff round in Minnesota. It is part of the reason Houston extended the contract of coach Gary Kubiak despite the fact that the Texans never have advanced to the postseason.

Owners knew the uncertainty that awaited. Coaches are aware of it, too. And it is one of the whispers going around NFL training camps this summer.

A work stoppage could stop some teams from changing head coaches. Other observations from Bears training camp:

  • Mike Martz is known for his offense, but he played some great defense Saturday.

    The Bears' offensive coordinator staunchly defended quarterback Jay Cutler, saying the signal-caller has all the physical and emotional skills he needs to become a standout. Martz and Cutler have grown close this offseason and each needs the other to revive his career. Both are convinced they will succeed.

    As for Bears wide receivers, Martz spoke with conviction and confidence about them. He is a firm believer that Devin Hester, Devin Aromashodu, Johnny Knox, Earl Bennett and Rashied Davis can perform the way his Rams receivers did back in the day. Fans doubt the group and its quarterback; Martz doesn't.

  • Forget the talk about the Bears not using their tight ends. At Friday's practice, Cutler couldn't stop throwing to tight ends Desmond Clark, Greg Olsen and Kellen Davis. Chicago's tight ends are going to produce a lot more than people expect.

  • Chicago didn't have first- or second-round picks, but it sure looks like it hit on its third- and fourth-round picks: safety Major Wright and defensive end Corey Wootton. Each could wind up starting sooner rather than later.

    It's not like Chicago hasn't hit defensive draft paydirt in recent seasons, anyway. In 2008, the Bears used their fifth-round pick on Zack Bowman, who is the most underrated player on their defense. After replacing Nathan Vasher in the lineup last season, Bowman picked off six passes. The Bears are so confident in Bowman that they've shifted him to left cornerback, the position Charles Tillman manned the past seven seasons.

  • This is not what Bears fans want to hear, but it's something they should know. There might not be another team with a schedule more daunting than Chicago's. In addition to playing in the tough NFC North, the Bears also play at Dallas, at the New York Giants, at Carolina and home against Philadelphia, New England and the New York Jets. Tough road.

  • I'm still not sure how Chicago's offensive line is going to hold up with Frank Omiyale at right tackle and Chris Williams at left tackle. But offensive line coach Mike Tice is the right man to make Chicago's makeshift unit work.

  • Chicago has all the coaching experience it needs. Assistants Martz, Tice and Rod Marinelli each have been NFL head coaches.

  • And now, on to Allen Park, Mich., and the Detroit Lions.

    Adam Schefter is an ESPN NFL Insider.