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Lovie Smith garners interest from around NFL

Published: Friday, Jan. 4, 2013 9:43 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — Lovie Smith could be destined to return to the sidelines as a head coach in 2013.

A source confirmed the Bills intend to interview the deposed Bears coach, likely in the next few days. Bills brass is conducting interviews in Arizona and already has met with former Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt and former Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton.

The Buffalo News also reported the Bills plan to meet with University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly on Friday.

Smith, who was fired Monday after missing the playoffs in a 10-6 season, would welcome an opportunity in Buffalo. His former players believe he is more than deserving of the opportunity.

“The Bills would be lucky to have a coach that does things the right way,” linebacker Lance Briggs told the Chicago Tribune on Thursday.

Smith also has interest in the Cardinals’ opening following Whisenhunt’s firing, and ESPN reported the Chargers expressed an interest in talking with Smith for their vacancy.

Smith has a career record of 81-63 and led the Bears to three NFC North titles, two NFC championship games and one Super Bowl appearance in nine seasons.

Given his Bears history, Smith’s biggest challenge at his next stop might be finding an offensive coordinator to pair with his 4-3, Cover-2 defensive scheme.

The Bills finished this season 6-10 (2-4 in AFC East) under Chan Gailey, who was fired Monday along with his staff (including former Bears coach Dave Wannstedt). The team also appears somewhat eager to squeeze out general manager Buddy Nix eventually in favor of assistant GM Doug Whaley.

If hired, Smith would have some defensive parts to build around in defensive end Mario Williams, pass-rusher and former Bear Mark Anderson and safety Jairus Byrd, son of current Bears safeties coach Gill Byrd.

Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, who held the same title in Buffalo for four seasons, believes Smith would be the right man. But Fewell pointed to the need for Bills management to be patient with any incoming coach.

“It takes an owner that’s willing to stand by his head coach for not a three-year period ... it takes time to really build a football program,” Fewell said. “If someone is willing to give (Smith) the time to really build a football program, he can do that. It’s not an instant-gratification type situation there.

“Lovie is the same man day in and day out, very consistent with his approach. He has the respect of the players as well as his coaching staff. The players believe in him and what he brings to the table. I think every game a Lovie Smith team goes into, that team has a belief it can win.”

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