How to Fix the Chicago Bears Part One: Defense


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In the first of a two-part series, we're going to look at how to fix the issues of the Chicago Bears. I know, the Bears had more issues than Sports Illustrated in 2009, but there are a few remedies that could be put into place that could bring this unit back to prominance.

The organization took the defensive play calling responsibilities away from Lovie Smith, and they're now searching for a new coordinator. The first step to fixing the defense is to put someone in charge of the group that's going to get them to produce. In my opinion, there's a talented coach out there that would not only get the most out of this group of players, but would become a fan favorite quickly.

A very simple history lesson reminds us that the best defensive coordinator in the history of the Chicago Bears is Buddy Ryan, who designed the legendary 46 Defense that destroyed the NFL between 1984-'86, with the great Super Bowl run of 1985 in the middle. However, Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan never got along and, after the '85 season, Ryan was run out of town.

This weekend, you can watch one of Buddy's sons, Rex, as the head coach of the New York Jets in the AFC Championship game. His personality has taken New York by storm, and his defensive game planning reminds many of his father. From his time in Baltimore and now with the jets, Rex has developed strategies that have been shockingly effective.

Rex has a twin brother, Rob, who is currently a defensive coordinator in Cleveland. Many Bears fans will remember him yelling back and forth with Jay Cutler when the Browns played the Bears this season, but the two hugged and made up after the game. Rob hasn't worked with high profile defenses like his twin, but he has done a good job in Oakland and now Cleveland of making a poor unit better.

The Bears are supposedly struggling to find takers for either coordinator position because of Lovie Smith's questionable job security. If anyone in the NFL is on a shorter leash than Lovie, it's Eric Mangini in Cleveland. Getting Rob Ryan to jump off that Titanic might not be very hard.

To right the karma that got messed up when Buddy was run out of town 25 years ago, and because he's got the goods to develop a winning strategy, I would bring in Rob Ryan to run the Bears defense.

Which brings us to the next issues: scheme and personnel.

When Mike Nolan left the Denver Broncos earlier this week, I wrote that he would be a great fit for the Bears. The discussion that followed was largely surrounding Nolan's 3-4, and how that would (or wouldn't) work with the Bears existing roster. Rob Ryan also preaches the 3-4, so I'll elaborate my opinion of the changes that could be made here.

Below is how I would line up the Bears defense in 2010, in the 3-4, with a few additions we'll discuss further.


For the purposes of illustrating the base 3-4 defense, I used a mock offense with one tight end, two wide receivers and a slot receiver. Given the personnel in Green Bay and Minnesota, this is a base formation the Bears will see a lot of in the coming years.

Right out of the gate I'll address the names in red, which would be free agent acquisitions. The statement that the Bears do not currently have the personnel to run the 3-4 is accurate, but there are a few players, especially on the defensive line, that could be brought in as free agents that could make the system work.

Richard Seymour is aging and didn't have a spectacular season in Oakland this year after being traded by the Patriots just before the season started. He's been a productive end on championship teams and is versatile enough to move around in this defense. He would probably be expensive, but if Jerry Angelo wants to have a job in 12 months without a first or second round draft pick, he's going to need to spend money to fix the holes on the roster he's built.

Inside of Seymour, I would go after former-Detroit Lion Shaun Rogers. The big man, who bears a striking resemblance to the Diabolical Biz Markie, is a load in the middle and played for Rob Ryan in Cleveland this year. Adding Seymour and Rogers to a line with Alex Brown and Jaron Gilbert could be good enough to keep the linebackers free to make plays.

You're probably thinking "where does Tommie Harris play into this equation?" He doesn't. I'm done waiting for Harris to be the Pro Bowl tackle he was for a couple seasons to start his career. However, if there's a GM dumb enough to give up a second round draft pick for the resume Gaines Adams had in Tampa, the Bears could probably sneak back into the mid- to late-second round by trading Harris.

The other option with Harris, because the Bears lack picks, would be to deal him for a receiver like Brandon Marshall, who could become a restricted free agent because of the CBA and likely won't be invited back in Denver.

The next issue that needs to be addressed is Peanut Tillman. He's one of the elite ball hawks in the NFL, but his coverage skills simply aren't there any more. Because of injuries and, frankly, his age, Tillman finds himself utilizing the Five-Yard Trail Technique on occasion against players like Greg Jennings, Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice and Charles Johnson.

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In my mind, it's time for someone to have a sit down with Tillman and discuss the free safety position. Not only would it prolong the career of Tillman, but his skill set would be better served with the ability to play centerfield.

One contract that won't likely be off the Bears books for the next few years is Brian Urlacher. In my opinion, Urlacher is still a good linebacker in the NFL and moving him doesn't make sense. However, because of his injury history, he cannot be counted on to be the rock in the middle of a Cover Two scheme any more.

By making the switch to a 3-4, the Bears would be splitting the responsibilities in the middle between Urlacher and, in my scenario, Jamar Williams. This would allow Urlacher to play a bigger role in the pass rush and also enable him to only worry about covering half the field. Williams showed in limited action that he has the ability to play at the NFL level, so putting him next to Urlacher could not only bring more athleticism to the field but would also likely prolong Urlacher's career.

This is a pretty long list of changes. And Rob Ryan's personality couldn't be further from Lovie's concrete demeanor. But in the NFC North, the Bears defensive unit as it currently sits doesn't have the goods to get it done and, without high draft picks to add talent from college, money is going to have to be spent to improve this side of the ball.

Remember, though, that there are a number of players' contracts coming off the books on the defense this year. Adams was acquired to presumably replace Adewale Ogunleye, but his unfortunate passing leaves a big hole on the Bears' roster. The money Ogunleye and Adams made in 2009 could be reinvested in Rogers and Seymour, and moving Harris in a trade could move more money off the books as well.


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