Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:
“Too many years ago the Bears professed to coach to the strengths of the players. They also pretended they could improve upon weaknesses and, where they could not improve the players’ skills, they could employ strategy to limit the expression of players’ weaknesses. To the point: We’ve been hearing and reading about the Bears’ intent to convert from a 4-3 defensive front to a 3-4 defensive front. As I look at the roster of the defensive front, I see a treasure trove of talent. I see Jeremiah Ratliff, Will Sutton, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, David Bass, Jared Allen, Ego Ferguson and Cornelius Washington (forgive me if I’ve forgotten some). And, now the Bears have Eddie Goldman. Given those players as a base, I wonder why the apparent jump from considering a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense? — Eugene L., Libertyville,
“You make a fair point but defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has had tremendous success running a 3-4 scheme and being part of 3-4 defenses in the past. There is never going to be a clean slate for a team to make such a change but I think you can make a pretty good case that the Bears were at as good of a point for a switch as a team could be coming off last season. Fangio isn’t going to ask these players to do something they can’t handle. With Pernell McPhee and Houston, I think they’ve got capable starters at outside linebacker. Allen, in my opinion, will probably best fit as a pass-rushing end in the sub packages. The others on the line, Ray McDonald and Jarvis Jenkins incluced, will sort themselves out. A 3-4 front provides more variety when it comes to pressure packages. Some readers have been clamoring for a move to a 3-4 for several years. It’s going to be interesting to see how the defense unfolds.”
Biggs says a lot when he states that the Bears were “at as good of a point for a switch as a team could be.” The decision to make this conversion likely in part has to do with the reader’s assertion that the Bears had a “treasure trove of talent” on defense.
The Bears poor defensive performance last year was for one or both of two reasons: 1) The talent was lacking and/or 2) the coaching was lacking. It’s probable that the Bears front office and coaching staff figures that they can do a better job than last year’s staff and there will be some improvement just because of that. Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Fangio who apparently agrees:
“‘We’re going to have to make our own building blocks,’ he said Saturday, his first public comments since his January hiring. ‘But I think any time you come to a new place, the first job is to make the players you already have better. That’s our job, No. 1, before you talk about free agency and the draft and whatnot.
“‘So we need to make the guys that we have here, better.'”
But obviously the Bears also concluded that wasn’t going to be enough to over-come the defensive deficit that the teams faces within the division. Combine that with Fangio’s likely preference for a 3-4 and the decision was made.
I think the Bears were making a staement with this switch. Don’t get your hopes up for the defense to instantly enter the top ten in the league. They obviously opted for a long-term rebuilding because they didn’t think they had the talent to pull such an improvement off. I would concur.