By Mike Mulligan-

The Bears may appear to be going nowhere, but that doesn’t mean Lovie Smith is headed anywhere.

Smith effectively can seal another contract with a victory over the Packers on Sunday. Beating the Packers is important to Bears ownership, and Smith could end a five-game losing streak to the NFC North rivals while also ensuring a winning season and keeping the dream of a division title alive. Despite a recent Tribune poll in which 86 percent of the responders want Smith gone if the Bears miss the playoffs, they all should cheer for him Sunday.

Smith is miles away the most qualified person for the job he holds. Does anybody believe the Bears would get in a bidding war for Jon Gruden, rumored to be on the way back, or be interested in coaxing Bill Cowher out of retirement?

To complicate matters, the NFL is looking at an offseason in which eight to 10 head coaches likely will get the pink slip. Considering the glacial pace at which the Bears interview and hire, would any top candidates still be available when the team got around to filling a potential vacancy? There is always a surprise move or two in the offseason (Could Sean Payton wind up in Dallas?), so the list might be longer than expected.

Coaches on the hot seat include Norv Turner, Jason Garrett, Rex Ryan, Ken Whisenhunt, Romeo Crennel, Andy Reid, Ron Rivera, Pat Shurmur, Chan Gailey, Mike Mularkey, Dennis Allen and Mike Munchak. Smith would make it a baker’s dozen.

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