Players appreciate steady Lovie Smith

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith definitely receives votes for NFL coach of the year honors from linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs.

The duo discussed Smith's non-wavering style as one of the main ingredients of the team's success.

"I don't know how [coach of the year voting] works," Urlacher said. "But in my mind, he's my head coach, so of course I'm going to say [Smith deserves the award]. The thing you've got to love about Lovie -- as a player -- [is] he's the same all the time. He lets you know where you stand.

"I know the media doesn't like it very much because he doesn't give you all the information. But as players, we like that. He doesn't sell us out, doesn't tell any information that needs to be out there; keeps it in-house, for the most part. Sometimes, some guys got their little friends in the media they talk to. But, for the most part, he keeps everything in-house, and we appreciate that. He keeps it in our family."

According to ESPN senior writer John Clayton, since The Associated Press started handing out the award in 1957, it has gone 40 times to a first-, second- or third-year coach with the most pronounced turnaround.

Raheem Morris of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Steve Spagnuolo of the St. Louis Rams, and Todd Haley of the Kansas City Chiefs certainly fit those credentials.

But several other names such as Philadelphia's Andy Reid, Jacksonville's Jack Del Rio, New England's Bill Belichick, and Atlanta's Mike Smith belong in the conversation along with Lovie Smith and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin.

"He's very consistent. That's the type of play he demands from his men," Briggs said of Lovie Smith. "He's got my vote for coach of the year. There are a lot of coaches out there who deserve it, but he's definitely one of them."

The NFL coach of the year award typically isn't announced until January.

Urlacher said Smith predicted the Bears' success when the team started offseason conditioning.

"He's the same all the time; that's what we love about him," Urlacher said. "He told us how good we were the first day of whenever we do our junk in the spring, and he was right. We've been pretty good this whole time."

Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.