We're Black and Blue All Over:
The firing of Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress this week has overshadowed a much more positive trend among NFC North coaches: Two of them are candidates for NFL coach of the year.
The Chicago Bears' Lovie Smith has helped resurrect his team from what appeared to be lame-duck status this season. The Green Bay Packers' Mike McCarthy, meanwhile, has navigated his team through an injury-ravaged first half to emerge as one of the league's top teams.
Smith was on the proverbial hot seat when the season began, and many of us in the media were busy trying to figure out the buyout on his contract. Now he has his team on a playoff run and will be entering the final year of his contract in 2011. So instead of firing Smith, should the Bears be working on a contract extension?
Not yet, writes David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune.
Haugh: "It looks encouraging enough heading into Sunday's showdown against the [Philadelphia] Eagles for general manager Jerry Angelo to issue an unsolicited vote of confidence for Smith last week. But if the Bears miss the playoffs for the fourth straight year despite a surprising start, can a franchise justify bringing back a coach who would have qualified for the postseason in only two of seven seasons?"
In other words, there is no rush.
Continuing around the NFC North:
Sunday's game against the Eagles will be the Bears' moment of truth, writes Mike Mulligan of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com looks at the highs and lows of the Bears' week.
Packers receiver Greg Jennings is making his case for the Pro Bowl this season, writes Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette looks at the value, or lack thereof, to playing well in the second half of the NFL season.
McCarthy is one of three coaches in the class of 2006 to still have his job, writes Mike Vandermause of the Press-Gazette.
Did a former New York Jets sideline reporter try to get a financial settlement with Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre? Not surprisingly, the story differs, according to the Associated Press. The question is probably moot now that Jenn Sterger has already cooperated with the NFL.
Questions remain about how the Vikings will change under new coach Leslie Frazier, writes Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
In addition to their coaching situation, the Vikings have a long list of expiring player contracts to examine, notes Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune.
Vikings receiver Bernard Berrian referred to Childress as "confrontational" during a radio appearance Tuesday, according to Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick compared Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms during a Tuesday conference call, notes Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press. Like Stafford, Simms was injury-prone early in his career.
Lions guard Stephen Peterman has already set a personal high in penalties for a season, notes Monarrez.
Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said he apologized to Dallas Cowboys tailback Marion Barber for tackling him by his hair last Sunday, writes Tim Twentyman of the Detroit News.