How is Marinelli an upgrade for Bears?


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- I made no bones about being an unabashed advocate for Chicago hiring Mike Martz as its offensive coordinator. And so I don’t mind telling you that I see no upside in promoting Rod Marinelli to defensive coordinator.

Marinelli has never been a coordinator in 33 years as a coach, and his new responsibilities will take at least some of his focus away from his specialty as a defensive line tutor. Marinelli wasn’t known for his organizational skills as Detroit’s head coach from 2006 to 2008 and he doesn’t seem well-suited for this job.

Frankly, I wonder if Marinelli thinks it’s a good idea. Last month, coach Lovie Smith strongly implied Marinelli didn’t want the job.

Here’s what Smith said Jan. 5: “I’ve talked to Rod about all of the different things I am going to do. Rod would like to be in his position of being an assistant head coach, and helping me with other things like that, and coaching the defensive line. That’s a full-time job.”

So Smith pursued one-time Bears assistant Perry Fewell for the job, only to be spurned when Fewell joined the New York Giants. With few other options, it appears Smith talked Marinelli into making the change. In a statement released Friday, Smith said:

“We considered outside possibilities, but I didn’t feel our defense would benefit the same way it will with Rod in the coordinator role. From the first day I became head coach of the Chicago Bears I envisioned Rod as our defensive coordinator. I considered him for the role last year, but wanted him to have the opportunity to work exclusively with our defensive line and become acclimated to our team. He will remain in our defensive line room, but will add the responsibility of the defensive calls on game day.”

Assistant defensive line coach Eric Washington was promoted to the full-time role, but it sounds as if Marinelli will split his time between the line and his coordinator duties. To me, that presents a problem on both fronts: His influence with the line will be watered down, and the Bears still don’t have a coach to serve solely as the defensive coordinator. Wasn’t that what they needed after Smith gave up those duties after the season?

There are some ways this could work, and it’s worth noting that Marinelli and Smith are united in their advocacy of the Tampa 2 scheme. It’s ingrained in their souls and they should be able to hit the ground running.

But it sure feels like the Bears targeted only one candidate for this job and were at a loss after Fewell went to the Giants. Ultimately, it seems they circled back on an emergency backup plan.

Their offense got better with the additions of Martz and offensive line coach Mike Tice. I can’t say the same about their defense after Friday’s moves.