Whether or not you or I believe that defensive coordinator Mel Tucker was at fault for the defensive debacle last season is irrelevant. The Chicago Bears, in particular head coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery, both believe in Tucker. The Bears decided to part ways with defensive line coach Mike Phair and linebackers coach Tim Tibesar. They'll probably have some player turnover as well, but for now it's fairly evident where the Bears have placed blame for their feeble defense.
From the outside looking in, it appears that Phair and Tibesar were offered up as sacrificial lambs, to allow the Bears to save face after such a horrendous 2013 season. The Bears allowed the most points, rushing yards, and total yards in their franchise's history that dates back to 1920. Once a decision was made to keep Mel Tucker on as defensive coordinator, they had to fire someone.
There wasn't one unit on the defensive side of the ball that stood out in 2013, so they could have been justified in springing any one of their defensive assistants. The safety play really took a step back, the linebackers made the same mistakes all year long, and the defensive line struggled against the run as well as failing to get any consistent pressure on the quarterback.
I didn't even mention all the missed tackles.
I'm not big on conspiracy theories, or trying to read more into a situation that exists, but I think the firing of Phair and Tibesar was done as much for where they came from, as it was performance based.
Had Trestman fired just Tibesar, who he brought in with him from his coaching staff in Montreal and the Canadian Football League, the perception was that his CFL coaches weren't ready for the NFL.
Had Trestman fired just Phair, who was in his 3rd season in Chicago, and who was a Lovie Smith hire, it would seem like the Bears were pinning all the blame on a Lovie guy.
By firing one of their guys and one of the holdover coaches, it allows them to spread out the blame.
I'm sure the lack of development from Shea McClellin at defensive end factored into Phair's dismissal, but how did Emery's admission that McClellin may have been playing out of position all along factor in?
The mental mistakes from the rookie linebackers had to factor into Tibesar's firing, but these two weren't ever supposed to see the field on defense in 2013. They were drafted to play special teams, and to be ready for a defensive role in 2014.
But back to Mel Tucker.
Trestman and Emery point to the Bears defensive performance in weeks 1-3, when the team was relatively healthy, as their biggest reason for keeping Tucker around.
The Bears won those games 24-21 against the Bengals, 31-30 against the Vikings, and 40-23 in Pittsburgh.
On the season the Bears allowed 394.4 total yards per game, and in these three games they allowed 383 ypg. Chicago's passing D allowed 233.1 yards per game on the 2013 season, and in weeks 1-3 that number was 294.3. It was the rushing defense in those first three games where the largest discrepancy can be found. On the season, the Bears allowed a league worst 161.4 yards per game, and in those three weeks it was only 88.7 ypg.
The Bears defense also picked up nearly 40% of the teams total turnovers (28) in weeks 1-3 when they had three each in weeks one and two, and then five against the Steelers.
So the plan seems to be for Mel Tucker to coordinate the 2014 defense with a couple new assistants, some healthier players, a free agent or two, plus some rookie defenders. That's a lot of moving parts that need to come together. Will that be enough to get Chicago's D to elevate their play and get them into the playoffs next season?
Time will tell, but I do think it's 2014 or bust for Mel Tucker. If the defense falters again, there's no way he's given a 3rd year.
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