The 4-3 defense is alive and well in the NFC and the Bears will be seeing a lot of familiar iterations of it in 2014.
First it was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hiring Lovie Smith to replace Greg Schiano (another ex-Bears coach) as head coach. The Bucs come to Soldier Field at some point in 2014.
Then former Bears linebacker and offensive coordinator Ron Rivera, at the brink of firing after a 1-3 start last season, was kept in place for this season and beyond with a three-year contract extension as his reward for guiding Cam Newton, a superb defense and the rest of the Carolina Panthers to the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Bears will go to Carolina this season and have beaten the Panthers in 2010 (by 17 points), 2011 (by five) and 2012 (by one, on a late Robbie Gould field goal).
What makes Rivera’s work even more noteworthy is that he took over a team that was 2-14 under now-Denver coach John Fox and improved it to 6-10 and 7-9 before last seaon’s breakthrough.
Now the Dallas Cowboys, who lost to the Bears in three of the past four seasons and come to Chicago again in 2014, have flipped defensive coaches: “promoting” coordinator Monte Kiffin to assistant head coach/defense and actually promoting ex-Bears coordinator/line coach Rod Marinelli to defensive coordinator.
The Cowboys, like the Bears, went through the worst defensive season in franchise history, a year marked by losing four starters for extended periods and never having Pro Bowl tackle Jeremiah Ratliff, who went to the Bears.
The 2014 Bears schedule already included new head coaches in Detroit and Minnesota.