Bears: The curious non-defense of the defensive coordinator

Bears: The curious non-defense of the defensive coordinator

January 2, 2014, 10:00 pm
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It's still likely Mel Tucker will be back as defensive coordinator and will be given the opportunity to call his shots, his way -- something he he didn't get to do in his first year.

He was the Corey Wootton of Marc Trestman's staff, succumbing to the system desired by the veteran holdovers, looking to squeeze another year of success before a looming overhaul. It backfired when two of his inherited Pro Bowlers - defensive tackle Henry Melton and cornerback Charles Tillman - were lost for at least half the season. Another who went seven times previously, Lance Briggs, also missed half the season. But you knew all that already.

What isn't known is why Trestman and Phil Emery wouldn't say Tucker would definitely return during Thursday's press conference marathon, where they announced three player signings and reflected on a third straight season in which the franchise missed the playoffs.

Trestman couldn't go so far to say Jay Cutler would be re-signed, but he practically fell over himself last month protecting the No. 1 status of Cutler as Josh McCown gained popularity during Cutler's injury absence.

While Trestman asked the media and fans not to read too much in his less-than-passionate defense of Tucker, it left an impression of what's probably happening: He and Emery are still evaluating everything on that side, including a potential switch to a 3-4 front. As they examine the landscape of how they can reliably fill numerous holes no matter what system they choose via the draft and free agency, they'll then decide whether Tucker's the guy who can execute that as quickly as possible.

[RELATED: Changes coming to Bears D, but likely not Tucker]

Tucker's statistical track record doesn't do him many favors. There were also some rumblings about concern over the fact that while Tucker unquestionably put in the hours and time attempting to fix a defense that couldn't get off the field, there was never really any sustained and noticeable improvement as the season went on. The same mistakes kept being made. The effort was there, but the results weren't.

Emery and Trestman spent a lot of time taking ownership in the areas their team was deficient, and that was predominantly on the defensive side. But the last thing they could have done in that was not leave any doubt that Tucker is the guy to direct that side of the ball in 2014. That defense never arrived, kind of like the team's defense all year long. If a change is coming, look for it to occur in the next few days.

They certainly have plenty of spots to fill. Here's a look at the defensive regulars under contract and their own free agents at those respective positions in parentheses. All this comes under the likelihood of Shea McClellin potentially being tried at linebacker, Julius Peppers coming back (unless someone wants to absorb that $18 million salary or the Bears soak up more than $8 million in "dead money" against their cap if they cut him), and Chris Conte's future here a long shot:

DE: Julius Peppers, Shea McClellin, David Bass (Corey Wootton)

DT: Stephen Paea (Henry Melton, Jeremiah Ratliff, Nate Collins)

LB: Brandon Bostic, Lance Briggs, Khaseem Greene (James Anderson, DJ Williams)

CB:  Tim Jennings, Isaiah Frey (Charles Tillman, Zack Bowman)

S: Chris Conte (Major Wright, Craig Steltz, Anthony Walters)