Injuries also to blame, but that doesn’t secure Mel Tucker’s job
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporter January 2, 2014 8:04PM
Updated: February 4, 2014 10:29AM
Mel Tucker will remain the defensive coordinator until further notice. That notice may come if the Bears’ “everything-is-on-the-table” approach, as coach Marc Trestman put it, deems a change is needed.
The Bears will meticulously go about reaching that decision.
Trestman, who has the final say on his assistant coaches, defended and commended Tucker at times throughout a 90-plus minute news conference with general manager Phil Emery Thursday at Halas Hall, but he never said Tucker’s job was secure.
The Bears’ last two games — a 54-11 blowout loss against the Eagles and the gaffe-filled 33-28 letdown against the Packers — have planted Tucker firmly on the proverbial hot seat.
“I haven’t had a discussion with Mel,” Trestman said. “The coaches need a chance to rest. The last thing you want to do is start making decisions three days after a very, very disappointing loss.
“We’ll move forward with our coaches as they get back here, and then we’ll come out from underneath this building, and we’ll be very open with the direction we’re going to go.”
A number of aspects will be considered when finding that direction for the once-mighty Bears’ defense, which allowed an NFL-high 11 100-yard rushers in 2013 and set franchise-worsts for total yards allowed (6,313) and points (478).
Emery and Trestman each stressed that injuries and the caliber of players lost — including Henry Melton, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman — severely impacted the defense’s effectiveness.
“As the season progressed and we had more injuries, we fell dramatically,” Emery said.
“What I saw on the field in the first three games was not what I saw in the last three games,” Trestman said.
The defense, which Emery indicated will be younger next season because of another draft, also may undergo a schematic change. Defensive end Shea McClellin is looking at a possible move to linebacker, while Jon Bostic could shift to outside linebacker in his second season.
Would having Tucker in charge work best for such changes?
Trestman thought Tucker worked with Briggs and other veterans well, and he highlighted Tucker’s ability to learn the ways and language of Lovie Smith’s defense, saying “that’s not an easy transition” for a coordinator. He also said that during the first three games, the Bears’ defense looked as good as last year’s.
“We saw disruption at the line of scrimmage on tape,” Trestman said. “We saw a defense that forced turnovers. We saw a defense that scored. We saw players making plays.”
That start and all the injuries may give Tucker another chance, especially since Trestman and Emery also want fingers pointed at them for the defense’s demise.
“I’m accountable for what happened on the defensive side of the ball,” Trestman said. “And the first question that’s got to be asked this week is: What could I have done better to help our defense so we didn’t have that oscillating effect even through the injuries, which every team has?”
Emery went a step further and said he failed to secure enough depth, saying his team was short a defensive lineman and needed another safety to compete with starters Chris Conte and Major Wright.
“We had injuries; they are not an excuse,” Emery said. “So for me, I have to look at, did we have enough depth to win football games? The answer is, ‘No.’ ”
Still, that doesn’t mean Tucker will return.
“Everything is on the table in terms of going through this process,” Trestman said. “And I don’t want to leave anything hanging out there. We want to be sure we’re making mindful decisions.”