Ah, here we are, waking up to another Christmas without Bears head coach Lovie Smith's firing under the tree.
Smith's job scenarios remain nearly as diverse as the Bears' postseason scenarios have been.
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Today the playoffs are clearer: The Bears qualify Sunday if they win and the Vikings lose.
If only Smith's situation were that simple.
The Bears could lose, finish 9-7, miss the playoffs and make it easier to fire Smith.
They could win, finish 10-6, qualify for the playoffs and make it harder to fire Smith.
They could win, finish 10-6, still miss the playoffs for the fifth time in six years and complicate matters.
Does general manager Phil Emery have the nerve to dismiss a coach after a double-digit-victory season?
Good question. The answer is, "Who knows?" As in, "Who knows anything about Emery?"
The Bears always are looking for an excuse to retain Smith, especially when the alternative is to pay him $5.5 million to not coach next season.
Here's a suggestion: Make Smith a contract offer he can refuse.
Sad to say, I have a lot of experience as someone who dated a lot of women who wanted to break up with me but didn't have the heart to do it.
What happens is they stay in the relationship but make life so miserable that you can't take it anymore and slink off.
For some reason, Bears management and ownership have had a tough time breaking up with Smith. Maybe they can use reverse psychology to free themselves of what is suspected to be a lifetime contract.
First of all, playoffs or not, 10-6 still justifies a contract extension … of one year through 2014.
Take it or leave it, coach, preferably leave it. Long snapper Patrick Mannelly accepted a one-year extension Monday, and he's been better at his job than you ever were at yours.
The Bears could only hope that Smith is so full of himself that he would consider the offer an insult and resign in protest.
Even if Smith tucks his pride and accepts the single extra season, the limited commitment will keep the Bears in financial position to fire him next season.
One more year is one more too many, however, so the Bears have to concoct other ways to coax Smith into storming off in disgust.
How about giving Smith the added season but insisting that Emery gets to form a new offensive staff of assistants, from coordinator on down?
If Smith is smart -- please, no jokes here -- he'll refuse because quality coaches won't want to join him with his contract security so precarious.
The combination of a one-year extension and diminished hiring authority should be enough to make Smith leave in a huff. Should he stubbornly cling to the Bears, Emery could inform him that he has to go undefeated next season to keep the job.
If that doesn't scare off Smith, his boss could threaten to make him a player-coach covering kicks on special teams without a helmet or jockstrap.
If that doesn't work, Emery could tell Smith he must coach on game days in official NFL culottes, halter top and bonnet.
If that doesn't work … oh, I don't know, maybe a 10-6 record would mean the Bears are stuck with Lovie Smith for at least one more year and probably forever.
That scenario represents a chunk of coal in most Bears fans' stockings.
Merry Christmas anyway, folks.