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Monday, January 21, 2013
Bears: First glance at Mel Tucker

By Kevin Seifert

New Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman largely completed his coaching staff during the extended weekend I took away from the blog. Based on this roster on the Bears' website, it appears he still needs position coaches for receivers and linebackers but has most of the major hires in place.

Mel Tucker
Marc Trestman hired Mel Tucker (above) to run the Bears' defense.
That includes all three coordinators: Aaron Kromer on offense, Mel Tucker on defense and Joe DeCamillis for special teams. Given how much we've already discussed Trestman's role in revitalizing the Bears' offense, I thought it was worth taking a first glance at Tucker's history as an NFL coordinator.

A few graybeards might join me in recalling Tucker as a defensive back at Wisconsin from 1992-95. His first job as an NFL coordinator came with the Cleveland Browns in 2008, when he was 36, and if he has a connection with Trestman, I'm not aware of it.

More simply, Trestman just moved quickly to hire one of the league's most respected young coordinators after Rod Marinelli turned down his offer to remain with the team. Tucker has been sought after for years, including last season when the Minnesota Vikings tried to hire him as their defensive coordinator, and with some quick success in Chicago he could be a strong head-coaching candidate.

The Bears offered Tucker a pretty decent platform to succeed, given Trestman's focus on offense and their returning nucleus of three All-Pro players. Trestman seems open to the most basic decisions, including whether Tucker runs a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. (His patience in that regard could be a different story. As Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune noted, Trestman went through four defensive coordinators in the past four years as the Montréal Alouettes' head coach.)

It's difficult to compose a comprehensive statistical profile of a defensive coach. In many ways, you would hope that his tendencies change with the ebb and flow of personnel. But to start off the Tucker conversation, at least, I pulled the blitz percentages of all five defenses he has coordinated -- one year with the Browns and four with the Jaguars.

As the chart shows, Tucker has never had among the top 10 heaviest-blitzing defenses. And in his past two years, he has been one of the lightest blitzers in the NFL. Even Marinelli, a devotee to the four-man standard rush that distinguishes the "Tampa 2," sent extra rushers more than Tucker in both the 2010 and 2011 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

We should be careful about drawing too many conclusions from that information. It doesn't necessarily mean Tucker is passive and/or somehow doesn't believe in pressuring the quarterback. Most coordinators will tell you that they want to apply pressure with the fewest amount of defenders as possible.

It's true that the Jaguars had the second-lowest rate of sacks per drop backs (4.5 percent) in the NFL over that stretch. But sacks alone aren't always the best measure of a pass rush. Opposing quarterbacks averaged 2.63 seconds in the pocket against the Jaguars over that time period, the eighth-lowest in the league. That's a statistical way of suggesting quarterbacks threw the ball before the rush could get there.

Again, this post offers just a glimpse of the coach who will lead the Bears' transition from a scheme they have run for most of the past decade. I'm sure we'll add to the conversation as we move forward.