Phillips: New deals for Angelo, Smith can wait until after game


LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) – As the NFL’s lowest paid coach, Lovie Smith led the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl. He’s now in line for a contract extension.

Bears president Ted Phillips expects to work out the extension soon. Phillips said Wednesday he’s had preliminary discussions with both Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo on new deals, but talks are on hold until after the Super Bowl on Feb. 4 in Miami. That way, there will be no distractions.

“Lovie Smith has indicated to me he wants to be head coach of the Bears for a long time. That’s my goal. That’s the organization’s goal. I know everybody wants to make a big deal out of the fact that there is not a deal,” Phillips said. “It’s not unlike a player negotiation in which sometimes it takes longer than you think.”

Smith is in the third year of a four-year contract that pays him $1.35 million per season. The Atlanta Falcons just signed former Louisville coach Bobby Petrino to a five-year, $24 million deal.

“I’m not going to tell you what status we’re at. I’ve known Lovie’s agent for a long time and I have no doubt we’ll get a deal done,” Phillips said.

Phillips said he wasn’t embarrassed that the coach of the one of the NFL’s pioneer franchises, a man who has led the Bears to back-to-back division titles and to their first Super Bowl in 21 years, is the lowest paid in the league. Smith was voted NFL Coach of the Year in 2005.

“When we signed Lovie Smith, signed a four-year contract, it was a market value contract for coaches who had not been a head coach in the NFL. He received a fair deal and he’ll receive a fair deal again,” Phillips said.

“I guess you’d say it’s my prerogative not to do a short-term fix last year. … I never, including last year, ever thought – and I’ve expressed these thoughts privately to Lovie and Jerry as well – never felt that Lovie Smith wasn’t a good head coach. I always believed he was. … I needed to see another year. In ’04, we didn’t have a successful year. In ’05 we did, but it ended on a sour note with the playoff loss to Carolina.”

Angelo had his contract extended through 2008 on Dec. 29, 2003, the day Dick Jauron was fired as Bears coach.

“Ted and I are talking about my contract, too. All that in due time. (It) will resolve itself,” Angelo said Wednesday.

“Hey, I’ve been very fortunate to be in football as long as I’ve been in this game and having people still want me around, I take that as a real blessing. If I can continue, great. But I’ll let that take care of itself.”

Angelo, initially hired on June 12, 2001, is credited with stocking the Bears with a mix of veterans and young players. Chicago returned 22 players who started at some point last season, and through the draft added key rookies such as defensive end Mark Anderson, who had 12 sacks, and Devin Hester, who set an NFL record with six kick returns for touchdowns.

Angelo said he realized the Bears were ready to compete for a championship when Chicago rallied from a 20-point second-half deficit and overcame six turnovers to nip Arizona 24-23 in a Monday night game on Oct. 16. The win gave the Bears a 6-0 record.

“Obviously that was our bad game,” Angelo said. ” National venue, and I’m just sitting there in that press box and everybody is there. I’m going, “You’ve got to be kidding me. Couldn’t we do this Sunday at 12 o’clock. Do we have to do it Monday at 8?”

But the Bears’ determined comeback was as memorable as the poor performance that game. At least for Angelo.

“If I had to pick one game that really exemplified this team, it was that one,” Angelo said.

For Phillips, the trip to Miami will mark his second Super Bowl and it also reflects just how much things have changed since the Bears of Walter Payton, Jim McMahon and William “The Refrigerator” Perry rocked New England 46-10 in 1986.

Phillips, who joined the Bears in 1983, had responsibilities that were a lot less glamorous the last time Chicago was in the Super Bowl.

“I had been here two years, I was the controller, and at the Super Bowl I handled the rental cars. I’m not going to do that this year. I’m not doing it.”

AP-ES-01-24-07 1814EST