"Usually this time of year, we're doing the autopsy on our football team," Angelo said on Wednesday at Halas Hall. "It's not usually an enjoyable time."
Now in his sixth season with the organization, Angelo has enjoyed succes like never before in Chicago. The Monsters of the Midway won their second consecutive NFC North title with a sparking 13-3 record, defeated the Seattle Seahawks 27-24 in the divisional round, and then advanced to the title game with a 39-14 mauling of the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship. They will face the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Feb. 4 at Dolphin Stadium in Super Bowl XLI.
Angelo knows how big this game is not just for the franchise but the entire city of Chicago.
"We get one more bite of the apple," he said. "And that's the big apple."
Although the Bears appeared to be the class of the NFC throughout the 2006 regular season and captured the No. 1 seed heading into the playoffs, there were - and continue to be - myriad questions surrounding the team. Quarterback Rex Grossman rode an emotional roller coaster that included everything from NFC Player of the Month honors in September to a near-benching at St. Louis in December. Despite the widespread criticism around the country, Grossman had the best statistical seaosn for a Bears quarterback since Erik Kramer in 1995 and is the first Chicago signal-caller since Jim McMahon in 1985 to lead his team to the Super Bowl.
When asked about Grossman's future in the Windy City, Angelo admitted his evaluation is ongoing but quipped that his wife Bernie recently bought a No. 8 Grossman jersey for their dog.
According to reports that became public on Tuesday, head coach Lovie Smith's future in Chicago could be up in the air, as well.
With Bill Parcells stepping down as head coach of the Cowboys, apparently Smith has caught the attention of Dallas owner Jerry Jones. Smith is a native of Big Sandy, TX and grew up a Cowboys fan. He still has one more season left on the initial contract he signed with the Bears, so if he were to leave, Chicago would be entitled to draft-choice compensation.
However, Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips said that Smith is going nowhere.
"Lovie Smith has indicated to me that he wants to be the head coach of the Chicago Bears," Phillips said. "And that is my goal."
Smith has a 31-20 record in three seasons but is the lowest-paid head coach in the NFL at $1.3 million per year. Although a contract extension has supposedly been in the works for quite some time, Phillips said that those talks will be delayed until after the Super Bowl in order to eliminate any distraction it might cause. It was reported that the Bears recently offered Smith a new deal in the vicinity of $2.7 million per season, which would still be considered well below market value someone of Smith's credentials, but Phillips denied those reports.
Phillips grew agitated when asked to defend the initial contract Smith signed and was adamant that the organization did not lowball him.
"I'm not embarrassed at all," he said. "It was a market-valued contract for a coach who had not been a head coach in the NFL. It was a fair deal."
Smith and Tony Dungy of Indianapolis - old friends from their days together with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - are the first black head coaches to lead a team to the Super Bowl. Two Sundays from now, one of them will be the first to win it.