Smith replaces Jauron as Bears coach

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 15, 2004

LAKE FOREST, Ill. - Now that he's turned around the St. Louis Rams' defense, Lovie Smith is taking on the Chicago Bears.

Smith was hired Wednesday as the Bears' head coach, agreeing to a four-year deal. He replaces Dick Jauron, fired Dec. 29.

Smith will be introduced at a news conference Thursday. He was in St. Louis on Wednesday and not available for comment.

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''There's a position right for everyone,'' he said Tuesday when he came to Halas Hall for his second interview. ''And I'm hoping this position is what is right for me.''

The Bears have had just one winning season in the last eight, and haven't won a playoff game since 1995. Smith will be the team's third coach in six years - fourth if you count that botched attempt to hire Dave McGinnis in 1999.

Smith is the first black head coach in Bears history.


ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) - The Buffalo Bills hope Mike Mularkey can spark their stagnant offense.

Mularkey was hired as the 13th coach in franchise history Wednesday, his first head coaching job after 10 years as an assistant. He will be officially introduced as coach of the Bills at a news conference scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Both Mularkey and president and general manager Tom Donahoe were unavailable for comment until the news conference.

At 42, Mularkey will be one of the youngest head coaches in the NFL. He spent the last three years as Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator.

Mularkey replaces Gregg Williams, fired after a disappointing 6-10 season.

Mularkey has ties to Donahoe dating to 1996, when the Steelers, with Donahoe in the front office, hired Mularkey to be their tight ends coach.

Over the last three years, Mularkey has built a strong reputation for having a creative offensive mind, one of the things the Bills were searching for in a new coach.

Under Mularkey, the Steelers' offense ranked in the top five two of the last three seasons. The Steelers slipped to 22nd this season.

Mularkey was one of seven candidates, including former Giants coach Jim Fassel and Bears coach Dick Jauron, to interview for the job.

Williams went 17-31 in three seasons with the Bills. Buffalo finished 3-13 and 8-8 in his first two seasons.

Mularkey met with Donahoe last week before flying to Detroit to meet owner Ralph Wilson on Tuesday.

''With all the experience that Mr. Donahoe and Mr. Wilson have, they certainly know what they are doing better than anybody in the NFL,'' Bills receiver Eric Moulds said. ''I feel real good about the decision.''

Moulds and the rest of the Bills offense struggled this season after they were among the league's best units in 2002. The Bills slipped to 30th in total offense this season, managing 4,348 yards, seven better than the franchise low. Buffalo managed only 243 points, second-fewest in a 16-game season.

Moulds, hampered by a sore groin for most of the season, caught 64 passes after setting a franchise record with 100 receptions in 2002.

Quarterback Drew Bledsoe endured one of the worst seasons of his 11-year career, throwing for 11 touchdowns, his fewest since 2001, when he played in only two games for New England.

Much of the blame fell on offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, who handled the play calling.

Mularkey replaced Gilbride in Pittsburgh. No decision has been announced about whether Gilbride will remain on the Buffalo staff.

Bledsoe's final appearance with the Patriots before being traded to Buffalo was against the Steelers in the 2001 AFC championship game, Mularkey's first year as Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator. Bledsoe replaced an injured Tom Brady in the second quarter and engineered three scoring drives in the Patriots' 24-17 win.

In 2001, Mularkey helped quarterback Kordell Stewart have one of his best seasons as a pro. Stewart completed more than 60 percent of his passes and threw for 14 touchdowns, and the Steelers became the NFL's top-ranked rushing team.

The following season, Mularkey helped quarterback Tommy Maddox rejuvenate his career. Maddox, who earned MVP honors in the now-defunct XFL in 2001, threw 20 touchdown passes in leading the Steelers into the playoffs, where they lost to Tennessee.

The Bills hope Mularkey can help Bledsoe, too.

Others who interviewed for the Bills' head coaching position: current Bills defensive coordinator Jerry Gray, new Bears head coach and former Rams defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.