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Smith not focusing on future with Bears amid intense speculation

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Over and over, coach Lovie Smith kept pointing out that the Chicago Bears are 5-9. If he's trying to keep his job, he might want to use a different approach.

Smith said the poor performance "is on all of us" and he's simply focusing on the upcoming Monday night game against the Minnesota Vikings -- not his future.

Considering that Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said Smith's future hinges on performance and not money, mentioning the team's record might not be the best idea.

The Bears have dropped eight of their last 10 game after a 31-7 loss at Baltimore on Sunday, and according to STATS LLC, they're the fourth team to miss the playoffs in at least three consecutive years after making the Super Bowl. Speculation about Smith's job status has mounted with each loss, and Angelo simply added to it before the Ravens game.

Angelo shot down an Internet report that Smith would return next season, saying that's still to be determined, and vowed there would be no roster overhaul. Angelo called that "a positive, not a negative."

Smith, meanwhile, reiterated that he didn't need a vote of confidence from Angelo.

"I'm not really interested in a whole lot of that," he said. "We're 5-9 right now. I've said it about three or four times."

Actually, Smith said it 12 times during a 9½-minute news conference Monday, whether he was addressing his future, the team's performance or Jay Cutler's struggles. He simply couldn't overlook it. Question is: Can management?

Whether it's Angelo, president Ted Phillips or owner Virginia McCaskey, can the Bears' hierarchy overlook what has happened the past three seasons and give the coach -- and, for that matter, the general manager -- who led the 2006 team to the Super Bowl another shot?

Smith is owed $11 million for the final two years of his contract, and Angelo is signed through 2013. With Cutler at quarterback, the Bears believed they could get back into contention.

Instead, they fell apart.

Cutler leads the NFL with 25 interceptions after throwing three against the Ravens, and the running game ranks among the worst, partly because of a shaky offensive line. The defense has struggled, too, and the result is this: Four losses by 20 or more points. That's the most for the Bears since they went 4-12 under Dave Wannstedt in 1997. He returned for one more season before being replaced by Dick Jauron, but Angelo wouldn't commit to sticking with Smith.

"I think it's on all of us," Smith said. "Everybody that has a job here, it's up to them to do a better job -- all of us. From top to bottom, starting with me, the rest of the coaching staff, of course the players. That's what we're all working for, working to do. That's what we've done each week -- look in the mirror, especially when we lose."

Players defended Smith and the staff earlier in the season, but the tone seems to be changing. Last week, wide receiver Devin Hester vowed changes are coming, and Cutler passed on a chance to endorse offensive coordinator Ron Turner.

On Monday, players either danced around questions about Smith's status or simply refused to answer them.

Defensive end Alex Brown and wide receiver Rashied Davis had no comment on that, and safety Kevin Payne said, "We're not really focused on that. That's out of our hands."

As for the criticism of Smith?

"I really don't have anything to say about that," Payne said. "I'm just concentrating on getting a win with the Vikings right now."

Payne did say, "We love our coach, we want to do everything possible to help him, but as far as all the other conversations, we have no idea about anything like that."

A strong finish against the Vikings and Detroit Lions might help, although the Bears must do a better job after allowing 537 yards against Minnesota last month during a 36-10 loss at the Metrodome. For now, the heat on Smith is intensifying.

"You're life isn't going to be good," the coach said. "It's kind of simple as that. We keep going down that road, but same answer: 5-9, nobody's happy about it. The fans, no one here. Hopefully, we'll feel better about 6-9."

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