Well that didn't take long! We were informed that Rod Marinelli was leaving during the Trestman presser this week, and by Friday the Bears had a replacement. Meet Mel Tucker, a man who is highly respected around the league and was most recently the defensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars. This is a solid hire by Emery, as Tucker has interviewed for head coaching positions and even served as interim head coach for the Jags at the end of the 2011 season.
Most importantly, he knows the 4-3 defense and the cover-2. That means the Bears could stay with the same system they had previously, utilizing their veteran mix of 4-3 talent on the roster, at least for the time being. But Tucker also has experience with the 3-4, so if the Bears decide to switch it up, he can run that also.
Players who played for him say he is a great communicator and fun to work with. The reason he left Jacksonville is that he applied for their head coaching vacancy but lost out to Gus Bradley, so it was time to move on. Plus, his defense was ranked 30th in the league last season, though that was more personnel-related than due to coaching. Interestingly enough, former Bears’ coach Bob Babich is expected to replace him in Florida.
Despite the Jags' poor results this past season, when Tucker was given play-calling duties on defense in 2011, the defense was ranked fourth in the NFL. 2012 was a very poor season for Jacksonville's offense, so maybe the fact that their defense was on the field too much had something to do with the downfall.
Tucker's defensive scheme will not make Bears fans longing for the return of the attacking style of defense—ala Ron Rivera or the '85 Bears—happy. He generally likes to rush four and was sometimes criticized by Jaguar fans last year for failing to blitz often. He employs a lot of two-deep with single-high looks, using the strong safety in the middle and the free safety to the weak side of the formation. With a two-deep shell, the DBs can break inside to react to curls, digs and posts. It gives up yardage in the soft under-belly (medium-range passes) so it is predicated on getting turnovers. It's a lot like what we've seen from the Bears during the Lovie years, although Tucker did employ a 3-4 with Cleveland.
Although he has failed to get head coaching positions he has applied for with four NFL teams, and at Wisconsin where he played d-back in college, perhaps a higher profile job with a team like the Bears moves him closer to his goal. He's only 41, so he has time and given that none of the head coaching vacancies were filled by minority candidates this offseason, here's hoping that he eventually gets his chance.
But not before he keeps the Bears’ d-train chugging. The concern with the departure of Lovie and Marinelli was that while Trestman could fix the offense, the defense might take a step back. If that happens, the Bears could end up in the opposite position they've been in all these years, with problems on the defensive side of the football.
Meanwhile, I guess they'll have to inform Raheem Morris that his services are no longer required, as he was on a plane to Chicago to interview for the position when the hiring of Tucker was announced, according to the Washington Post.