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Assistant coaches Darryl Drake and Dave Toub give maligned Lovie Smith emphatic support

Bears head coach Lovie Smith stretches field during warmups before Chicago Bears fall 23-17 overtime Seattle Seahawks Sunday December 2

Bears head coach Lovie Smith stretches on the field during warmups before the Chicago Bears fall 23-17 in overtime to the Seattle Seahawks Sunday December 2, 2012 at Soldier Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 30, 2013 6:13AM

There won’t be a popular vote on coach Lovie Smith’s future at Halas Hall. Insiders say it’s strictly general manager Phil Emery’s decision. But any change at the top would be in the face of passionate support for Smith throughout most of the building.

‘‘I don’t think there’s a better coach in the National Football League than Lovie Smith,’’ receivers coach Darryl Drake said. ‘‘And I’m not saying that because I work for him. I’m saying that because I truly believe that.

‘‘It’s a blessing for me to work for him. I don’t know if I’ll work for anybody else. I’m at a stage in my career where he has set the bar really, really high. He lets us coach. He lets us do our thing. We’re responsible for production. But his approach to the game is the way it should be done.’’

Drake’s emphatic support is predictable. One of four assistant coaches remaining from Smith’s original staff in 2004 (special teams coordinator Dave Toub, linebackers coach Bob Babich and running backs coach Tim Spencer are the others), Drake is an outspoken, emotional guy whose unconditional loyalty to his players rivals that of his boss.

Toub, on the other hand, is a less effusive cooler head not prone to overstatement, let alone hyperbole. The Bears have three current or former head coaches on their staff, but Toub might end up being the best head coach of them all if he ever gets the chance.

Yet Toub’s support for Smith is just as passionate as Drake’s. In fact, his sounded more like an ominous warning.

‘‘We are very lucky — the Chicago Bears are very lucky — to have Lovie Smith, and we better realize that,’’ Toub said. ‘‘Everybody better realize that.

‘‘He lets coaches coach. He lets me do my job. He has total trust in everything that I do. Obviously, I don’t call everything without going through him, but he lets me design our schemes and doesn’t second-guess what we do. You can’t get a better situation as a coach.’’

Smith’s loyalty to his coaches and his players is one of the hallmarks of his tenure with the Bears. It has kept his team together through difficult times. The Bears have faltered in key moments in his nine years as coach — the team has made the playoffs three times under Smith — but rarely, if ever, because of a fractured locker room.

‘‘Every player you talk to is going to tell you the same thing, every one of them,’’ Drake said. ‘‘The players don’t lie. They’re the ones that know.

‘‘I have guys all over the league that say, ‘Man, I wish I was with y’all.’ It’s all because of him. And it’s all across the league, active guys. I could never tell you their names because that would get them in trouble. But it happens all the time.

‘‘The perception that [the media] have, that’s just people. Not everybody’s going to like Lovie Smith. Not everybody’s going to like Darryl Drake. They’re just people, and that’s their deal. But the way I look at it, we are blessed to have him.’’

The players, not surprisingly, are staunch in their support of Smith. Brian Urlacher insulted Bears fans in defense of his coach. Lance Briggs all but said he is imploring the team to win Sunday against the Lions not only for Smith, but for the environment at Halas Hall that Smith has developed.

‘‘More than just Lovie, win it for us,’’ Briggs said. ‘‘If you’ve enjoyed your time here in Chicago and the way that Lovie has treated you and us together and this camaraderie that we have, then win for that.

‘‘If Lovie is not here, that goes with him. I’ve enjoyed every moment here in Chicago. And I don’t intend on that changing. So it’s time to go out and beat Detroit, and then we’ll pull for the Packers.’’

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