On The Horizon

After being named the NFL Coach of the Year and guiding the Bears into the postseason for the first time since 1994 it was not of a matter of if Dick Jauron would get a contract extension. It's a question of when.

In December Jerry Angelo announced Jauron would be back for the final year of his contract and a contract extension would be in the works sometime after the season ended.

Both Angelo and Jauron have stated that they wish to get something worked out before training camp and most likely sooner.

Talk between Angelo and Jauron's agent, Don Yee, have intensified over the last week, and a contract could be worked about before the end of the week.

The discussions have moved passed the slow-moving preliminary talks. Several issues remain to be resolved, one of which figures to be salary considering Steve Spurrier's huge contract with Washington.

Yee told the Chicago Tribune he's optimistic about a deal getting done soon.

"I'm hoping that by the end of the week we'll have something," Yee said. "I want to get something done, I know Dick does, and hopefully [the Bears] will as well."

Jauron has been on an emotional roller coaster over the last season. When the Bears hired Angelo in June there was a consensus that he wanted to hire his own coach at some point.

However, Angelo said he would use the 2001 season as a trial run to see if he could build a working relationship with Jauron.

Despite various rumors that Angelo wanted to bring in Tony Dungy or LSU coach Nick Sabin, Jauron went about his business in training camp and tried to work with Angelo.

The two began to gel as difficult personnel moves were made, such as the release of high priced veterans Thomas Smith, Bobby Engram and Mike Wells.

With each move it looked as if Jauron was being pushed into a losing season with the end result of him losing his job. However, the tough decisions Angelo were supported by Jauron, which proved to the new GM that his coach was willing to sacrifice in order for the good of the team.

"One example, as I was coming in here it was real important to me to understand and make sure that I was comfortable with the team concept in everybody from our coaches to our equipment people, our trainers, etc," Angelo said. "And I posed the question to Dick and his staff and it was a very tough decision and I explained to him the reasons why, let them think about it, we talked about it and the decision they made was the right decision. Not only what was best for the team, but we needed to do it from an organization as well. That was tough and it told me then that these were team players. From there I said this could be a good thing and the winning just personified all that."

In going 13-3 the Bears improved their win total by eight games over last season's 5-11 mark. Jauron played a key role in keeping the team level headed through their early success of a 6-1 start. Chicago didn't lose back-to-back games all season on their way to winning their first NFC Central Division title since 1990. All of which adds up to a pay raise for Jauron, who is currently being paid $1 million per season.

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