We're Black and Blue All Over:
Good morning to you on the first day of the offseason for half of our division. It's the first day of the postseason for the other half. On the blog, we're full steam ahead.
I'm planning to churn out one last four-set of Free Head Exams while also turning our attention to the initial hype of the wild-card rematch between the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers. (My column on the Vikings' surprising finish posted early Monday morning.) We'll deal with the future of coaches Lovie Smith (Chicago Bears) and Jim Schwartz (Detroit Lions), and while we have a moment we'll reiterate that the Lions have earned the No. 5 position in the 2013 draft.
The Bears became the second team in the 23-year history of this postseason structure to miss the playoffs after starting 7-1. Will that cost Smith his job? Will Schwartz take the fall for a third losing season in four years of his tenure with general manager Martin Mayhew? We might not get answers on Black Monday, but we'll be ready when they come.
While we have a moment, let's take our morning spin around the division:
It's time for Bears general manager Phil Emery to place his stamp on the franchise, writes Jon Greenberg of ESPNChicago.com.
Bears receiver Brandon Marshall and linebacker Brian Urlacher spoke strongly in favor of retaining Smith after Sunday's 26-24 victory over the Lions, according to Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com.
Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times: "So let the Lovie Smith Era come to an end, and let it come quickly. Let this nine-year reign of blank looks and over-the-top optimism in the face of limited success screech to a halt."
You don't always see coaches fired after a 10-6 season, but it's merited in Chicago, writes David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune.
With their offense, writes Dan Pompei of the Tribune, the Bears weren't going anywhere even if they made the playoffs.
Jeff Seidel of the Detroit Free Press: "Schwartz deserves to be back. This is the same coach who lead the Lions to the playoffs one year ago. Have the Lions regressed? Yes. Have they played like donkey poop? Yes. Is there a reason? Well, um, yes."
If nothing else, writes John Niyo of the Detroit News, Schwartz is now on the clock.
Schwartz wouldn't blame the performance of the front office for the Lions' 4-12 season, according to Anwar S. Richardson of Mlive.com.
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder played his best in his biggest game, writes Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune.
Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "The season has been filled with pleasant surprises rather than ugly ones."
Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com: "The Vikings have been underdogs all season and will be for as long as they can extend a playoff berth that begins at the site of their last loss."
Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "The Green Bay Packers’ road to the Super Bowl got longer and tougher on Sunday afternoon."
Packers linebacker Clay Matthews considered Sunday's loss to the Vikings "a real wake-up call," according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Packers tight end Jermichael Finley, via Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com: "They played big-time football. I didn't expect it, that last drive. But they're a playoff team, and we have to get ready for them. They're not a pushover at all."