After last season’s sham of a defense left the Bears out of the playoffs, many fans were angry. They felt that the cause of the defense’s downfall was mainly on defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.
Calls for Tucker’s firing were at their loudest almost as soon as Aaron Rodgers‘ touchdown pass to Randall Cobb was completed. Many argued that someone who coached at Jacksonville had no business being handed the keys to a sports car like the traditional Bears defense.
The Bears decided to keep Tucker and give him another chance. ”I think that Mel certainly gathered a lot of information about our football players that are with us now,” coach Marc Trestman said. ”I think he feels very good about the coaches we have surrounded him with to help him to his job. And I think he’ll utilize certainly what he learned about our team and the relationships he’s developed with our players and our coaches to move forward.”
Tucker did make his mistakes. His fatal mistake, however, was to bow down to the players, who were still loyal to former head coach Lovie Smith and his Cover-2 defense. The players wanted to continue to run that defense. Why fix something that was not broken was their reasoning.
True, the Bears defense was a top five defense and was setting records for turnovers and scoring. At times it appeared the defense had a better chance to score than the offense.
A lot of the players on that defense were aging, however, and with age comes injury risks. The older players were a step slower, and using the same schemes was not the move to make. We all saw the results.
This season, things are different. The Bears went out and completely overhauled the defense. In came Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, Ego Ferguson, Will Sutton, Adrian Wilson, Brock Vereen and Kyle Fuller. The defense is younger, more athletic and deeper than last season.
The defensive scheme is different as well. The Bears will now use a hybrid defense. There will be a lot more options than before. They will use a 4-3 defense most of the time, but they will mix in different alignments and use some 3-4 as well.
With Tucker using his own system now, he has a chance to put his stamp on the Bears defense. It is no longer Lovie Smith’s defense, it is Mel Tucker’s defense. Tucker wants to hear none of that, however.
”It’s a ‘we’ thing,” he said to reporters on Sunday. ”It’s not my stamp or any particular coach’s stamp or any particular player. It’s our brand of football, which is best condition, technique of fundamentals, smart, fast and physical. That’s what we need to be.”
Mel Tucker may want to deflect his part in running the new-look defense, but the fans and critics will now be justified in their blame of him if the defense stutters once again.