Mel Tucker’s Future Remains Undecided and Other Bullets


Pic via Peggy Kusinski on Twitter/@peggykusinski

I’m officially tired of winter, and it’s only January 3rd. That’s what having to shovel snow when the temperature is -10  will do for you, I suppose. Regardless, yesterday’s press conference ended up being a massive one, and while I focused yesterday on the obvious headlines (the new contract for Jay Cutler here, and the new deals for Tim Jennings and Matt Slauson here) Phil Emery and Marc Trestman touched on a wide variety of topics. (A lot of the conference is up at the Bears official website, if you’d like to watch it for yourself.) I’ll try to hit a couple of the more interesting points here.

  • I wrote the other day (back when I thought that the biggest news we might learn at yesterday’s press conference was Mel Tucker’s future) that if Emery and Trestman were anything other than completely behind Mel Tucker returning, it’d be fair to start to speculate. After reading Marc Trestman’s quotes on Tucker, I’m just not sure what to think. ESPN Chicago’s Jeff Dickerson collects them here, and includes this interesting bit: according to Emery yesterday, Trestman has final decision on assistants. Trestman is very cagey in his remarks on the topic, and he hides behind the notion that they’re still evaluating everyone, he has yet to speak to Tucker, and that he hopes no one jumps to any conclusions based on his non-committal stance at the press conference. On one hand, if he’s confident in Tucker returning but the decision is not 100% until they go through their entire process, it makes sense not to box yourself in with a definitive statement that he’s returning. On the other hand, if a reporter had asked if Aaron Kromer was returning, would the answer have been the same?
  • In any case, it’s hard to guess which way they’re leaning, especially if they truly aren’t leaning one way or the other. After the Green Bay game, I thought Tucker would be relieved of his duties, but now I sort of think they’ll keep him for another year, with a theoretically healthier and more talented defense. Trestman went out of his way to note that in the first three games of the year, before the injury plague, the defense looked good. Adam Jahns has those quotes for the Sun-Times, and he adds a few of Emery’s thoughts on the topic. The GM added that he was at fault for a lack of depth defensively that proved costly when injuries mounted. I’m not sure that Tucker is the right guy moving forward, but I definitely think that last season was a tough task for any defensive coach. Emery and Trestman are analytical enough to base their decision on factors beyond results, and it will be interesting to see what they decide to do.
  • If you haven’t seen/heard the press conference, this Jeff Dickerson post gives you a taste as to the long-windedness of Phil Emery. When asked about Shea McClellin’s lack of production, Emery launched into a monologue that compared Shea to other defensive ends who started slowly (including Jason Babin), and blamed himself for not putting Shea in a better position to succeed. He obviously said a lot more than that, but the gist is that he still thinks McClellin can produce in the right situation; that being one in which he’s used as a situational pass-rusher. While I agree that for Shea to be effective he’d have to be used differently, I’m not nearly as confident in his potential as Emery seems to be. While other defensive ends may have started poorly and then found new life, there are plenty of defensive ends who start poorly and never improve.
  • CBS Chicago’s Adam Hoge has a great summary of the day, including a section on whether the Bears would consider switching to a 3-4 defense. The topic came up, and it wasn’t ruled out by either Trestman or Emery. That’s a switch that would probably benefit McClellin, but I’m not sure who else is a natural fit for the scheme. Of course, considering the likely turnover on defense, if the Bears were going to switch this might be the offseason for it.
  • Hoge also mentions this Pro Football Talk article, which dives into the Cutler contract numbers. As was reported, the entire guaranteed portion will be paid over the first three seasons; that means the Bears will essentially have a team option every year for the final four years of the contract. The cap hit for next season is likely going to be $22.5 million, as that’s the base salary for 2014 (there was no signing bonus involved.) It falls for the seasons following next year, which makes sense; the Bears have a lot of cap room for 2014, so the bigger number upfront allows for lower amounts in the following years, when cap room might be a lot tighter. I like the deal, for both sides, and I think if Jay plays out the full seven years of the deal, that means things will have gone very, very well for the Bears.
  •  Speaking of contract details, numbers for Tim Jennings began to leak this morning, and finally Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reported the exact figures: 4 years, $22.4 million, $11.815 million guaranteed. He notes that’s a good contract for a 30 year-old cornerback. I guess so, although the average base salary is only a slight bump from the $4.25 base salary he received in 2013; considering his performance, importance to the offseason plan, and the fact that the final two years of the deal look like they’re not guaranteed, I think it’s more than fair for the Bears as well.
  • Lovie Smith was officially hired as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It will be interesting to see how many free-agent Bears find their way to Tampa. I tend to think that sort of thing is overblown, but one or two veterans wouldn’t surprise me. (Devin Hester was my guess for most likely, due to his contract status and roots in Florida, along with his obvious affection for Smith.) I think Lovie is a solid hire for the Bucs; he’s as far from Greg Schiano as you can possibly get, which is certainly a good thing. The defense is talented, and I don’t doubt that they’ll play hard. As always with Lovie, the offensive side of the ball is the challenge; this time, he’s brought in longtime Cal coach Jeff Tedford as his offensive coordinator. That echoes his decision to hire former Illinois coach Ron Turner as coordinator when he took over in Chicago. Anyway, Lovie had an impressive run for the Bears, and I wish him well. But he’s now the coach for another team, so hopefully people can move on. I’m very happy with the direction the Bears decided to go.

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

9 responses to “Mel Tucker’s Future Remains Undecided and Other Bullets”

  1. mdavis

    it’ll be interesting to see what the bucs do with that D. Revis and Goldson do not fit Lovie’s scheme at all.

    I’m trying to rack my brain on Jennings man skills, and I know he did well against Bryant and Gordon…but not sure how much full out man they played, which is necessary if they moved to a 3-4. I’d be much more interested in seeing them go to a hybrid style, like the Pats and Ravens run out there.

    1. JB88

      I think that pick at No. 14 will be very telling as to the direction they are going. If they draft a CB or hybrid lineman, I think 3-4 is absolutely happening.

      Interestingly, though, I actually think they have some pieces to move to the 3-4 already in place. Given Briggs’ age, I actually think he fits better as an ILB in a 3-4 scheme. Same goes with Bostic who doesn’t seem to have the instincts to play Mike, but might look better as an ILB. If McClellin is playing as a 3-4 OLB, his speed probably plays better in the first place. I don’t know if either Paea or Ratliff have the size to play NT, but they might.

      Honestly, though, you are probably in full overhaul mode on the defense anyway. The only two guys I’d want from this year’s defense are Briggs and Jennings. Everyone else is expendable (though Greene and Bostic will be back for sure, and probably Conte because he is cheap).

      1. frank

        Ratliffe has played some nose tackle, but neither he or Paea have the prototypical size to play in 3-4. They would have to replace the entire secondary through. Jennings is much better as a zone corner than man-to-man, and the safeties would be horrendous in a 3-4 — but they were horrendous anyway. I’ve read that Bostic would project better as an OLB in 3-4, mostly due to his size and speed–and the same with Khaseem Greene. I don’t know if I agree on Briggs–the ILBs in a 3-4 are generally prototypical MLBs in a 4-3, and Briggs isn’t that–but as you say, given his age, he may be better than anything else the Bears have for that position.

        1. mdavis

          yea 14th spot will be interesting. I think if they wanted to go into that hybrd type of D a guy like Khalil Mack is interesting. Tuitt has NT potential. Corner is a need, but as you said if they don’t go 1st round then maybe they are sticking more traditional 4-3. Also I expect Emery to be aggressive in FA, have a lot of cap room this year so i see a piece or two being plugged that way

          1. JB88

            I think you’ll see him rebuild the defense in much the same way he rebuilt the offense–trade, FA, and the draft.

            This staff isn’t scared of character concerns, so looking to a team that is changing coaching staffs or with a new GM might be the place to look to find your trade candidates.

            1. mdavis

              yup agreed. rebuilt that O line in 1 year. 2 FA, 2 draft picks.

              Receiving corps: a trade, a pick, and a FA (M. Bennett).

              def see a similar approach coming for the defense.

  2. JB88

    I may be misreading your final bullet, but Smith’s first offensive coordinator was Terry Shea, not Ron Turner. Turner was hired after Shea was fired after one season, IIRC.

  3. Dan

    I am not buying the numbers. I heard on the score that the contract is structured where a bonus was prorated over 5 seasons and the cap hits are not large in the first 2 years in comparison to the PFT report.

  4. 308Guy

    If the Bears wait until draft day to decide what direction they intend to go with their defensive scheme, then I’m just not sure Trestman is the right coach for the job lol…no offense guys.

    This shouldn’t be such a process. Tucker turned one of the better defenses into one of the worst, in one season. It was historically bad for the Bears and that is completely unacceptable.

    Every single team around the league has to deal with injuries, so I don’t think he should get any sort of free pass because of them. They weren’t getting any pressure on the quarterback in the first 3 weeks and they sure as hell weren’t gettin any pressure the last 3 weeks of the season. Worst in the league in sacks and run defense.

    Tucker has only once had a defense finish in the top ten. The rest of his defenses were in the late 20’s. Then he comes to Chicago that is loaded with talent and it turns out just terrible. That isn’t injuries, that’s poor coaching!