Happy New Year and Other Brief Bullets


Welcome to 2014, everyone. I don’t want to bog you down or bury anything on a holiday (we all know you only read this blog to distract yourself at work) but I did want to check in with a few brief notes. And, of course, to once again wish you a Happy New Year. As I mentioned on Twitter, my New Year’s Eve consisted of having steak with the fiancée, watching some Twilight Zone (my own personal tradition), and avoiding Pitbull entirely. In other words, a perfect night. Today, I’m trying to finagle my way into a trip to Five Guys.

(Update: an earlier version of this post said you had to register for comments here, but I was mistaken. The new “register for comments” system at Bleacher Nation Cubs does not yet apply here on the Bears site. My mistake. So troll away!)

Now, the Bears-related info:

  • Not a ton of stuff going on for the Bears over the holiday, but Adam Jahns of the Sun-Times has this piece on whether some players never truly meshed with Marc Trestman, his staff, and his way of doing things. I think that’s fairly natural, and I don’t think it reflects poorly upon Trestman. So many players were in the last year of their contracts, it must have felt like a season-long tryout for them. When your own future is uncertain, it’s natural to be a bit more cautious about committing. (Of course, that’s a catch-22, as one of the best ways to engender yourself to the new regime is probably by demonstrating your willingness to adjust.) In the end, I think this is going to play out like we all suspected: a lot of defensive players leaving, a few being retained, and Phil Emery attempting to overhaul the defense.
  • Speaking of a defensive overhaul, if you’re in the “Fire Mel Tucker” camp you may learn his fate tomorrow morning, as Phil Emery and Marc Trestman are scheduled to speak to the media at Halas Hall. I assume they’ll be asked a question on Tucker’s future, and if they say “He’ll be back” then I think it’s safe to assume he’ll be back. If they hedge at all, then you can officially start to speculate. (Or I guess they could announce his outright removal, which would also give you your answer.) My opinion on Tucker hasn’t really changed: by the numbers and the eye test, the defense was obviously terrible. But the cavalcade of injuries to starters, combined with the general lack of talent at certain positions, makes me think that no defensive coordinator could have achieved results with that group. So Tucker has to be judged on the things that Trestman and Emery can see; the behind-the-scenes stuff at which we can only guess. I tend to think he’ll be back, which wouldn’t upset me, really. And if they go in another direction, I wouldn’t be upset by that, either. I trust their evaluation process.
  • That all said, if Tucker is fired, where would the Bears turn? One possibility might be Ray Horton, currently the Browns defensive coordinator. According to this Jason La Canfora report last night, the Browns are expected to hire Jim Schwartz as defensive coordinator. If that’s true, Horton would obviously be out. Horton is well-regarded (Evan Silva of Rotoworld said on Twitter that Horton would be the most “prized d-coordinator candidate in (the) NFL.” If Tucker is out, I would certainly expect Horton’s name to be on Chicago’s list, but I honestly don’t know how high up it would be, nor do I know whether Horton would be interested, nor do I really know if he’d be the best man for the job. Basically, I know nothing, but it’s out there, so there you go.
  • Finally, if you’re wondering how historically incompetent the Bears run defense was this year, Football Outsiders has an interesting section on the unit as a part of their year-end analysis. (The whole thing is interesting, but if you just want the Bears stuff, it’s about halfway down.) According to FO’s numbers, even though the Bears allowed 5.35 yards per carry, (which they note is the worst figure since the AFL-NFL merger, in 1970) some other metrics come into play that show the run defense wasn’t awful on a historical level. Just regular awful. Of particular interest to me was that the Bears finished right in the middle of the league in terms of stopping runners for a loss or no gain, but were “last in both second-level yards per carry and open-field yards per carry.” Having watched every game, that makes sense; how often did we see linebackers leaving gaps open, or safeties taking bad angles? Far, far too often. Hopefully an infusion of new talent and a regression in the level of injuries can lead to a boost for the performance next year. (I mean, it can’t be worse, right? Right?)

Jay Rigdon is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation Bears, and can also be found @BearsBN on Twitter.