The Chicago Bears announced on Sunday that they will retain defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, whose defense had a year to forget in 2013. But after an end of the season interview with head coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery, along with the praise of the players on defense, Tucker got the Bears brass to believe that he is the one to get them on the right track moving forward.
The Bears ranked 30th in total defense this past season, allowing 394.6 yards per game to their opponents. Given that, the Bears were in the middle of the pack against the pass, ranking 15th while allowing 233.1 yards per pass. But the running defense is what hurt the Bears all season. The Bears allowed a league worst 161.4 yards per game on the ground, with the next closest team coming in at 26 yards less than that.
The historically poor showing on defense didn’t go without consequence though. Defensive line coach Mike Phair and linebackers coach Tim Tibesar were fired. Those two firings are likely directly related to the struggles the first and second lines had in stopping opposing runners. One could argue that the plethora of injuries was to blame, but for the Bears, they simply didn’t see the improvement they wanted to see from guys who had to step in as the season went on.
It wasn’t a secret that the Bears defense was decimated by injuries. They lost defensive tackle Henry Melton, linebacker Lance Briggs, cornerback Charles Tillman, linebacker DJ Williams, and a number of other players, which made it difficult to get anything in place as the season progressed. Still, there isn’t an excuse to have a defense as poor as the Bears was last season, and the front office knows it.
Now, Trestman will be in a position he must avoid, and one that cost is predecessor his job. Trestman proved to be the offensive mind he was billed to be when taking over as head coach of the Bears. The position was open because former coach, and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach, Lovie Smith couldn’t find someone capable of running an NFL ready offense in the time he was here.
The Bears have the offensive weapons in place to make a big impact, not just in their own division, but in the NFC. What Trestman and Emery need to do is make sure the right players are in place for Tucker to succeed, and make sure that Tucker is a benefit to them. If Trestman falls in the trap of retaining guys who are failing to do their job, even though he once believed in them, it could mean wasted years for the best offense the Bears have even possessed.
The numbers certainly don’t back Tucker up. In his first job as defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns back in 2008, the defense ranked 16th in points and 26th in yards against. They allowed 4.5 yards per carry on the ground, ranking 28th in rushing and 14th in passing.
In 2009, he would move to the defensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars. They would rank 24th in points and 23rd in yards defensively that season. They ranked 27th against the pass and 19th against the run. Things didn’t get any better in 2010, where they ranked 27th in points and 28th in yards. They would rank 28th in passing and 22nd in rushing that season.
In 2011, Tucker would have his best season, maybe his only solid season, as defensive coordinator. The Jaguars ranked 11th in points and 6th in yards, ranking 8th against the pass and 9th against the run. The defense would again struggle in 2012, ranking 29th in points and 30th in yards. They ranked 22nd against the pass and 30th against the run.
What his numbers as a defensive coordinator would show, is that far too many times, Tucker has ranked in the bottom third of the league in defense. One may be able to credit that to being the byproduct of some bad teams. No one is clamoring about the recent history of the Browns and Jaguars. But if this year’s results are the case of that as well, the Emery and Trestman need to look in the mirror and take a long look. Otherwise, they need to look at the guy whose track record doesn’t back up what they have said about him. One more shot may be all Tucker gets at resuming his career as defensive coordinator.