Friday, February 15, 2013
Tucker won't change much on defense
By Michael C. Wright
Mel Tucker has experience coaching a 3-4 scheme but said there are no plans to run it in Chicago.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman and new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker put to rest any speculation concerning the possibility the team could make drastic changes in 2013 to the defense.
"We're not going to change the style of defense we're playing," Trestman said Thursday. "We're going to call things generally the same way. We're going to put some spin on it that Mel (Tucker) can bring with him from where he's been in the past. But essentially, the style of play and the type of football we're going to play defensively will not change much."
In fact, Tucker wants to keep most of the terminology the same.
"I thought that was important in this particular situation," Tucker said. "That will be best for us. Guys have played at a high level in this 4-3. I've done both 3-4 and 4-3 defense. I think (4-3) is a good fit."
Despite his experience coaching 3-4 fronts, Tucker made it clear "we don't have any plans to switch at this point" from the club's typical 4-3 alignment.
As defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns in 2008, Tucker guided a 3-4 defense that ranked 14th against the pass and tied for third in the NFL with 23 interceptions. That season, the Browns tied for third in takeaways (31).
Throughout Tucker's tenure with the Browns from 2005-08, the club ranked fourth in interceptions (73) and surrendered the fourth-fewest completions of 25-plus yards (78).
Upon joining the staff of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2009, Tucker switched to a 4-3 front, but introduced some 3-4 packages in his first season, before throwing out those looks over his last three seasons with the team.
"I didn't know Mel prior to the interview. He came highly recommended," Trestman said. "After speaking with him, not even talking football, for a couple of hours, just talking to him in general about his personal life, ideologies and philosophies and how he dealt with players, how he wanted to present himself to the team, (I) thought he was exactly in the right place at the right time.
"Once I got into the meeting room with him and (defensive backs coach) Jon (Hoke) and (defensive line coach) Mike (Phair), I felt completely confident that he was exactly the right guy for this job. I think you'll really see that in him. He's got tremendous potential as a leader, and his ability as a teacher is as good as anybody I've been around."
For now, Tucker said the Bears will "base out of a 4-3 'over' defense, an attacking, up the field, penetrating defense."
Tucker didn't seem overly concerned about how he'll be received by holdovers on defense, which developed a strong affinity with departed head coach Lovie Smith and former defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Tucker reached out to several players upon taking the job with the Bears and sees the veteran status of the defense as "a good thing" because the "guys know what it's all about. They've been through the wars."
Will it be difficult to coax all the holdovers on defense to buy in?
"It's going to be a daily process," Tucker said. "It's about trust and respect. That's earned on a daily basis. I'm different. I'm not going to try to be someone that I'm not. But I think as guys get to know our staff, I think they'll like what they see. As a coach, your job is to teach, motivate and develop. You want to push guys to get better each and every day.
"I think that's what we try to do as coaches. That's really our job. We'll work hard to help the players reach their full potential. That's very, very important. I think the guys know that. Day in and day out, we're here to help them, and we'll get that done. We'll get the most out of them."
After speaking with several players on defense, Trestman said, "they're excited that we can continue to play the Bear defense that we've been accustomed to playing here over the years," but added that "Mel will add some things that will make them excited and stimulated in their football."
Just from initial meetings, new ideas to slightly tweak the defense came "not only from Mel," Trestman said, "but from other guys on the staff as well that have been here."
So while the Bears plan to utilize some of the same principles employed in Chicago over the years, it's almost a sure bet moving forward that the team won't lean as heavily on the Tampa-2 style favored by Smith and Marinelli. Given the personnel on hand, the Bears won't totally abandon it either.
Tucker plans to take some input from the players as well because "they're on the field. They're the guys out there getting it done. So input from the players and coaches, that's the chemistry part of it. Communication is huge. You've got to have that. You want to encourage the players to give you feedback, not just in game, but in the out-of-season and the coaching sessions, the OTAs," because that helps to "build those relationships and trust and respects" which allows for "the communication you need on game day."
Tucker described his coaching style as "up-tempo, very positive, and very high energy" with great "attention to detail."
"I only raise my voice in enthusiasm," Tucker joked. "We're based in technique and fundamentals. The most important time of the day is when you're on the field, on the grass. So that's a very, very special time, and we don't have time to waste. So we'll get after it. I'm a different guy (than what the Bears have previously had). (The guys) will hear things maybe a different way from me, and my style of teaching and our style as a staff will come through as we go. Then we'll add it all up at the end of the day."
Here are a few more tidbits from Tucker's session Thursday with the media:
" On how he plans to pressure opposing quarterbacks: It's got to come from everywhere. We've got to get pressure on the quarterback. It could be four. It could be five. It could be six. It could be three. But it's a deal where rush and coverage have to work together."
" On what drew him to the Bears: What's not to like about the Bears? I mean, it's a great organization, lots of tradition. My wife (Jo-Ellyn, who has the nickname JoJo) is from Chicago. I'm a Midwestern guy. I'm from Cleveland, played at Wisconsin. It's a great tradition of football. On the defensive side of the ball, there's some history here as well.
" On his wife being a Bears fan: Is my wife a Bears fan? Well, she did grow up in Chicago on the South Side. She's an Illinois grad. She is a Bears fan, big time. She already has quite a bit of Bears gear, and so do the kids. She's all in. Her mom lives with us, but all her sisters and her uncles are in Waukegan. They're all here. We might have some ticket issues (laughs).
" On his history with Nick Saban, whom he worked with at Michigan State and LSU: Nick is a great coach. I learned a lot of technical football from Nick, I learned a lot of recruiting from Nick, and the way to prepare a football team, prepare as a coach. Very detailed, very intense, a sense of urgency every day, and I learned to coach that way.
" On what former Bears safety Chris Harris brings to the coaching staff: Chris, first and foremost, he's a great guy. He's highly intelligent. I had him for a little bit in Jacksonville. He picked up our scheme very quickly. He's familiar with the players and the scheme, so he'll do a great job coaching our guys.
On the importance of being a good teacher as a coach: Teaching is the difference. Guys, they will respond to you when they know that you can help them play better. That comes through teaching in the classroom and on the field. Whether it's a young player or a veteran player just trying to sharpen the saw so to speak, it's all about teaching. Guys need to understand why they're doing what they're doing. That's where you get the best types of buy-ins, when they understand the "why." It doesn't matter if they're Pop Warner (players) or NFL. I think coaching does matter. I really do.