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.