Hopefully everyone had a great weekend. Next Sunday is championship game Sunday, which is always a fun day of football. And the games look to be excellent; Seattle vs. San Francisco is always an intense game, and Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll certainly won’t be having lunch beforehand. Plus, Broncos vs. Patriots has a matchup of two quarterbacks you may have heard of before. (If you haven’t yet, don’t worry; the Manning/Brady angle will be talked about for approximately 8,400 hours this week.) Oh, and I predicted every game this weekend correctly, moving me to 7-1. (I’m sure you’re all quite happy for me.) But minutes before the Broncos and Chargers kicked off yesterday (a cynic would suggest that was to bury the story as much as possible), the Bears made an announcement of their own:
- In a move sure to be met with rejoicing and celebration by all the readers of this blog, the Bears revealed Sunday that they will be retaining Mel Tucker as the defensive coordinator. Defensive line coach Mike Phair and linebacker coach Tim Tibesar weren’t so lucky, however. As Jeff Dickerson notes in his piece for ESPN Chicago, Phair’s tenure dated back to the Lovie Smith era, while Tibesar had worked under Trestman in the CFL as well as spending time as Purdue’s defensive coordinator.
- Both of those men oversaw units decimated by injury, but apparently the Bears weren’t impressed with the development of the young players who were required to step up into bigger roles. (Players such as Jon Bostic, Khaseem Greene, Shea McClellin, and Stephen Paea. Paea himself battled injury, of course.) And vets in both position groups struggled as well.
- The defense’s woeful performance meant that someone was going to lose their job, as Michael C. Wright wrote for ESPN Chicago. I’ve thought for awhile that Tucker would get another chance, but the performance was so, so bad that it makes sense to look for some new voices on the defensive coaching staff. It’s easy to pin the blame on the head of the defense, and ultimately he’s responsible for that side of the ball. But the position coaches have a more direct line to the players.
- The Tribune’s Dan Wiederer writes that the Bears have faith in Mel Tucker to lead the defensive rebuild.
- HubArkush.com’s Kevin Fishbain thinks we might see a more aggressive Bears defense, if Tucker is allowed to incorporate more of his own philosophies. (As was widely publicized, he basically incorporated Lovie Smith’s defensive scheme this year, using the “if it ain’t broke” philosophy.)
- Adam Jahns notes in his Sun-Times piece that Mel Tucker’s ability to reach a few of the remaining Lovie Smith loyalists may have played a role in the Bears retaining him. (I’d agree that an ability to connect with players, regardless of their previous loyalties, is a good skill. I’m not sure I’d be too worried about appeasing any remaining players who still pine for Lovie, though.)
- CBS Chicago’s Adam Hoge thinks the defensive performance through the first three games of the season (before the massive injury run struck) was a key point in Tucker’s favor.
- ESPN Chicago’s Jon Greenberg looks at both sides of the debate, and he thinks the problems on the defensive side boil down to the players, not the coaches.
- Just how bad were the Bears bitten by the injury bug? Well, maybe not as badly as it seemed. Brad Biggs notes in the Tribune that the Bears had starters miss 47 games in 2013, which placed them just 18th league-wide in terms of injury frequency. But as Biggs writes, the problem was that 42 of those 47 games were missed by defensive starters. And good ones, at that; any preseason poll of the most talented Bear defenders would have included Henry Melton, Charles Tillman, and Lance Briggs at or near the top, and they combined to miss 28 games. Throw in free agent acquisition D.J. Williams missing 10 games, and you begin to see the problem.
- Finally, the NFL is considering offering broadcast rights to their Thursday night games. Currently most air on NFL Network, and apparently the league’s channel would retain some games. But bids are being solicited for rights to next season’s games, so things might move quickly.
Coming this afternoon: part two of my look at Chicago’s defensive ends. (Here’s part one, if you missed it.)