Last Month I constructed a post entitled “Everyone Sees the Problem. The Question Is How to Solve It.” We now know the answer to that question, at least as far as the 2014 Bears are concerned.
Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times describes one major reason why Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker was retained yesterday for at least one more season:
“Another important factor is that Tucker, by some accounts, was able to reach some of [former head coach Lovie Smith’s] loyalists and defensive leaders, who are signed past this season. That includes linebacker Lance Briggs, whom [head coach Marc] Trestman and [general manager Phil] Emery intentionally commended earlier this month.”
It's been speculated by many (including myself) that Briggs didn't buy in to the change in coaching staffs. If he didn't, it appears that Tucker was able to get the best out of him early in the season regardless of the fact.
What I didn't like about both Jahn's account and that of Dan Weiderer of the Chicago Tribune is that they both used injuries as an excuse for Tucker's failure, something which no coach does and no fan should. Injuries happen on every team and good teams perform despite them. According to Dan Pompei at the Bleacher Report the Colts, who won a playoff game before being bounced in the second round on Saturday, had 17 players on injured reserve this year, the most in the NFL. Who beat them to make the AFC Conference Final this Sunday? The Patriots, who had 14 on injured reserve placing them behind only five teams.
So why did the Bears retain Tucker by using injuries as an excuse? The answer is that they didn't. Instead, they responded to the defensive lapse by identifying the reasons for it as being in other areas. Its no secret that the defensive performance in all three levels of the defense was subpar. Defensive line coach Mike Phair and linebackers coach Tim Tibesar paid the price for the lack of improvement in young players that needed to step up in the face of injuries, namely middle linebacker Jon Bostic, outside linebacker Khaseem Greene and defensive end Shea McClellin. Apparently the job of Bears defensive backs coach Jon Hoke was saved by his history of excellence with the team and the good play of the cornerbacks despite a drop off from veteran safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright. The Bears will, instead, try to improve this position by bring in more players and doing a better job of creating competition.
So after weeks of meetings and what was undoubtedly endless film watching, we now know what the plan is. There may be things like scheme change on the horizon but the real problem with the Bears defense was the individual performance of the players. A change in scheme would have made very little difference last year. This is, in essence, the guts of how the Bears plan to fix the defense: better coaching of yonger players at the level of the position coaches and more competition for jobs. It isn't rocket science. How the plan is executed over the course of the off-season and in to next year will tell us if the Bears went far enough in their evaluation.