Bears Decide to Keep Mel Tucker and Other Bullets

MelTuckerHopefully 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.
  •’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.)

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

12 responses to “Bears Decide to Keep Mel Tucker and Other Bullets”

  1. Adam

    I really believe that the Bears need to consider changing schemes from the Tampa 2 that they played under Lovie. Like anything in the NFL, schemes become obsolete. The Tampa 2 had a solid run in the NFL, but I think it is done. The read-option offenses kill that style of defense. During the 2013 season, the Bears, the Vikings (under Frazier) and Cowboys (under Kiffin and Marinelli) were the 3 teams that ran defenses that were closest to the old Tampa 2. Those teams ranked 30th, 31st and 32nd respectively in total defense. It simply doesn’t work anymore. The Bears defense showed signs of falling in the 2nd half of the 2012 season when they were relatively healthy. Adapt or die. Time for new personnel and a new scheme.

  2. mdavis

    no surprises with Tucker coming back. i definitely think we’ll see some changes in scheme and philosphy. Wouldn’t mind seeing them draft Justin Gilbert out of Okl St at 14 if he’s there. good size, ability to play safety if needed, good ball skills.

    1. mdavis

      timmy jerningan of FSU could be a nice target too if they wanted to go DL 1st round

    2. Mike W

      Id hope the Bears go Defensive Line first and then pick away at other positions on Defense. I think if the Bears go to a 3-4 Defense they will need a big noise tackle, hopefully they can pick up Louis Nix either first round or second round.

      Bears safeties were awful last year I do agree but the way to make any Defensive backs better is through pass rush and being able to stop the run. The Bears major Priority should be creating a front 7 that is dominant in pass rush and run stoppage. Any CB or Safety in the NFL would get lit up if the QB can sit back there and just wait for his man to get open. Its all about pressure. Just look at the 49ers and Seahawks Defense and the way they can get to the QB its unreal. No wonder Drew Brees and Cam Newton lost this weekend.

      Stop blaming the Safeties for all Bears struggles last year, its getting tired to listen to Chris Conte’s last play and why he should be let go. If the Bears go after a Safety first round I hope its a game changer like a Troy Polamalu.

      1. mdavis

        wasnt blaming the safety at all. Gilbert is actually a CB. I was just pointing out the fact he has the size and versatilty to move there. Also, the value has to match the pick. I don’t think Nix is worth the 14th pick. Now if they move back, than sure. And if you want a 3-4, that also puts a lot more emphasis on the corners being able to lock up, so they would certainly need to address that as well. Its a decent DL draft, they can get Easley or Sutton in round 2 if they dont go DL 1st round. but the secondary certainly needs to be addressed as well.

        1. Mike W

          I know you were not blaming the safeties I was just pointing out my take on what the Bears should go after. The only person safe on the Bears defense is Lance Briggs and now that Tim Jennings has been resigned he is also included. Bears have 9 spots on defense that need to be addressed. If the Bears let up that much yards rushing a game that is the Front 7 who is to blame. The CB’s and Safeties have the hardest time tackling in the open field its always a 50/50 chance. Maybe the Bears could draft DL first pick and then see if Louis Nix is left in the second round. I don’t pay much attention to college football but he looks like he’d be a solid pick up in the middle.

          1. mdavis

            right right, i hear ya. I think a big point is what is the scheme as well. I think Timmy Jernigan from FSU would be a real strong pick at #14. but like i said, theres defintely some depth into the second round as well. they have so many needs, it’d be hard to go wrong at this point.

      2. frank

        I don’t think they’ll go to a 3-4 myself, but a big tackle can also be used in a more traditional 4-3, like the Ted Washington/Keith Traylor days under Blache. I think that might be the direction they go. Then they’d have a big nose tackle if they decide they do want to switch to a 3-4 down the road.

        1. mdavis

          agreed, but i wouldnt mind seeing more of a hybrid scheme. still would need that versatility, in which case a guy like Jernigan is still undersized. Nix, and maybe Hagemean from MN (6’5″ 310) would be someone who could bump down to nose. in theory you’d only go that 3-4 type look in passing situations but obviously that’s open to scheme and philosphies.

  3. Jon

    Unreal. Just admit you made a mistake with this hire.

  4. Griff

    Not a fan of Wade Phillips but he’s a great D Coordinator if we would have needed a replacement. I’m fine with Mel for one more year as long as we get some more talent and youth.

    1. mdavis

      agreed, lets see what tucker can do with some better talent and depth. i have a feeling emery will attack the def with the same aggressiveness he did on the other side of the ball the past 2 years.