NFC North: Joe DeCamillis

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker hears criticism from the fans regarding the Bears' struggling defense, but it's not anything worse than what he hears at home, considering his wife Jo-Ellyn and her family all hail from Chicago.

"You know, they want to win, too," Tucker said. "My wife is from Chicago. She's from the South side and so her mom, her whole family is here. They're all Bears fans. There's a little bit of, ‘You spend all that time over there and that's the best you can do?' type of thing."

With Chicago mired in a four-game losing streak, the club's defense in Sunday's loss to the Detroit Lions, held an opponent to fewer than 31 points for the first time since Nov. 23, when the Bears limited Tampa Bay to 13 points during a 21-13 win. The season-finale at Minnesota could be the coaching staff's last game together, as it's expected Bears coach Marc Trestman and the staff will be let go at the conclusion of the season. Still, nobody is concerned about what might take place next week, as the staff is focused on prepping for the Minnesota Vikings.

[+] EnlargeTrestman
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast"When you're sitting here with the record that we have, everybody's got something to say about it," Marc Trestman said.
"No one is happy at this time about where we are," Tucker said. "You can't sugarcoat it and think everyone is just on Cloud 9 right now. But we have to be mature about it. You have to handle it. You're going to have some moments, and we'll just work through it. We still have one more game to play, and so that's where our focus is. That's why it's difficult for me to reflect right now because we're not in reflect mode. We're in preparation mode for our last game. There will be plenty of time to reflect and look back. Right now, we've got a really big game ahead of us."

Trestman empathized with Tucker. After all, the team's high-priced offense underachieved in 2014 perhaps more than the embattled defense with Trestman presiding over it all. The team has endured plenty of off-the-field drama, too, with issues regarding trust between players and coaches in the locker room, and the benching of Jay Cutler just to name a couple.

"We're all getting earfuls, believe me, and certainly Mel's getting his share," Trestman said. "We all are, as we said. When you're sitting here with the record that we have, everybody's got something to say about it. That's part of the job we have right now, and we've had, is to deal with it and move forward and get our guys ready to play. That's where our responsibility lies, is the day-to-day process of doing our best as coaches to get our guys ready to play. That's our job."

That doesn't make it any easier for the staff to deal with, especially considering the high expectations entering the 2014 season. The Bears were coming off a promising 8-8 campaign in Trestman's first season at the helm. Like other teams around the league, the Bears have dealt with their fair share of injuries. But Trestman, Tucker and special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis all refused Tuesday to make excuses.

On offense, seven players with three years or fewer of experience have started at least one game. In fact, the Bears lined up on offense against the Lions with their eighth combination of starters along the offensive line. Defensively, the Bears have lined up with 11 combinations of starters in addition to losing five players, including four starters, to season-ending injuries.

Asked if he dreaded what's known around the NFL as Black Monday -- the day many coaching staffs are fired -- DeCamillis said, "No," as he's dealt with similar situations during nearly 30 years as a coach in the league.

"You're going to say, ‘He's not telling the truth,' but you deal with this," DeCamillis said. "I've been on staffs that it's an issue. I'm just trying to roll through this thing and try to get ready for Minnesota. You have quiet times where you think about that stuff. But this isn't a quiet time right now. I've got to go back upstairs and figure out a way to cover these guys this week because they're definitely explosive. I'll worry about that stuff whenever it happens I guess. What did you say, Monday?"

Bears Camp Report: Day 3

July, 27, 2014
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BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Chicago Bears training camp:
  • Pop-pop-pop-pop, pop-pop-pop-pop. That’s what you hear every day after practice. The players resemble Kung-Fu fighters in football pads as they work hand-fighting drills with martial arts expert Joe Kim, who was brought on by the Bears as a consultant to work on skill development. Cornerback Charles Tillman took part in the drills one-on-one with Kim on Sunday and said afterward he’s expecting the hand-fighting drills to help him improve at jamming receivers and getting off blocks better.
  • While we’re on the subject of hand-fighting drills, Kim joined the team mostly to work with the defensive line, because under defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, the scheme is changing drastically this season. Last year, the Bears employed Lovie Smith’s system, which emphasized penetration along the defensive line. The players were used to simply shooting the gaps to stop the run on the way to the quarterback. That’s all changing in 2014. The coaching staff wants Chicago’s defensive linemen to be technicians with their hands so they can engage opposing offensive linemen, stack them at the line, shed, and run to the ball. In the previous scheme, Chicago’s defensive linemen simply didn’t know how to use their hands effectively. Many times when they penetrated, they overran the ball because more and more now, teams are employing zone schemes that allow backs to pick their holes instead of the old-school leads, counters, and powers. By becoming better at using their hands, the D-line can also keep opposing offensive linemen off the club’s rangy linebackers, which in turn allows them to run around and make plays. In fact, Tucker recently turned on film of Chicago’s defensive line during a meeting, and many of the players on the roster that were a part of last year’s team were shocked at how badly the group played. What Tucker pointed out, according to one player in that meeting, was that last year, the group didn’t know how to use its hands. The joke among defenders now is that if one of the team’s linebackers has scratches or paint from the opponent’s helmets on their own, the defensive line isn’t sufficiently doing its job to keep offensive linemen off the linebackers. The Bears are expecting higher tackle totals this year among the linebackers, and the defensive line will be largely responsible for that.
  • It’s no real secret, but a couple of players to watch on special teams are linebacker Jordan Senn and safety Danny McCray. The staff believes Senn is a better special teams player than former Bear Blake Costanzo. McCray, meanwhile, was the best player on special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis’ units with the Dallas Cowboys.
  • The workout Sunday marked the team’s first in full pads. Coming off a torn ACL in 2013, fifth-year veteran Nate Collins produced the best performance among the defensive linemen in one-on-one drills against the offensive linemen. “You watch the practice tape, he's running full speed all over the field and finishing,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said.
  • Rookie first-round pick Kyle Fuller continues to impress, and appeared to get the best of Pro Bowl receiver Alshon Jeffery during one-on-one drills. Jeffery caught an extremely limited number of passes in the drill against Fuller, and one of those completions likely would’ve resulted in offensive pass interference as the receiver slapped the defender in the head and pushed off to get open.
  • Cornerback Tim Jennings (quadriceps) returned to practice, but pulled himself out of action after the first play in one-on-one drills because the leg “didn’t feel right,” according to Trestman. He’s still day to day. Defensive end Willie Young (quadriceps) returned to practice, but receiver Terrence Toliver (toe) was held out of the workout along with safeties Craig Steltz (groin) and Chris Conte (shoulder). It’s believed the bulked-up Conte will return to practice in the next week or two after missing the entire offseason conditioning program and the early part of camp because of shoulder surgery. Even if Conte returns soon, he's not expected to play in the first preseason game.

5 things to watch: Lions at Bears

November, 10, 2013
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Here's a look at five things to watch for Sunday when the Bears host the Detroit Lions for first place in the NFC North:

Jay Cutler's mobility: When the Bears host the Detroit Lions, 21 days will have passed since Jay Cutler tore a groin muscle in the team's loss to the Washington Redskins. So Cutler's potential mobility against Detroit's formidable pass rush has to be a concern, even though the quarterback and the club say otherwise.

Cutler
"[The Lions] do a good job," Cutler said. "We've done enough to test where I'm at. I feel good, got a lot of trust in the offensive line and the way they're playing right now. Can't worry about that. Once you get in the game, it's just reactionary stuff. Your brain's not gonna be able to say, 'Hey, alright, I want you to step right.' It just happens. We tried to mimic that as much as possible [in practice]. I thought we did a good job of that. I feel ready."

Look for the Bears to try to help out Cutler by putting him in plenty of shotgun formations so he won't put strain on that groin muscle with constant dropbacks from under center.

Front seven's run fits: Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker attributed the team's inability to hold down Reggie Bush (139 yards and a touchdown) in the last meeting to poor tackling and improper run fits. So Tucker is stressing better tackling out in open space, which is where Bush thrives, not to mention a swarm-the-ball mentality.

"We didn't tackle him. No. 1, we didn't fit the run well, and No. 2, he played exceptionally well," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "He made people miss. We've got to do a better job this time of working this week to try to neutralize him."

The defensive line needs to stay in their gaps, and the linebackers need to make sure to fill accordingly. Rookies Jonathan Bostic and Khaseem Greene have struggled recently with leveraging blocks, which won't help the Bears in their attempt to stop Bush. So they've spent time this week working to improve in that area. But it all starts with the club's injury-depleted front four.

"We have guys who are injured, just like everybody in the league has guys who are injured," Trestman said. "We have no excuses. We have to go out there and try to stop him. It's never easy when you're at full strength, so we have to make it a point of interest this week, and No. 1 is to neutralize Reggie and minimize his ability to get big plays in the run game."

Pass rush: Chicago's front four took a major step in the right direction with its five-sack outing Monday night at Green Bay, but there's a good chance the club's sack leader from that game won't play Sunday against the Lions. Coming off a three-sack game against the Packers, second-year defensive end Shea McClellin suffered a hamstring injury during Thursday's practice and is doubtful for the matchup with the Lions. That means the Bears need potential replacements such as David Bass and Cheta Ozougwu to step in and pick up the slack.

Julius Peppers needs to do the same.

"We have guys that have talent and [have] put a lot of hard work and effort with that, and eventually guys are going to break through. So I think that's what you saw [against the Packers]," Tucker said.

But can the Bears produce that type of performance again this week with sole possession of the division lead on the line?

Rushing attack: The last time these teams met, the Lions jumped out to a 30-10 second-quarter lead and immediately forced the Bears into passing mode, thus eliminating the prospects for Matt Forte getting into a flow. Forte rushed 14 times for 95 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown in the second quarter before the Lions erupted for three TDs in the final 3:26 of the first half. So the Bears could help themselves tremendously by using Forte to dictate the flow of the game early, which will also enable the passing attack to have success with play action.

Forte
Forte
Surely, the Bears learned the importance of ball security from their first matchup against the Lions, when Cutler contributed to the loss with four turnovers, including a fumble returned for a TD.

"Anytime you see a team for the second time, you have a better feel for how much strength you have against a guy, how much technique you're going to need against someone," Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. "Just as you go from the first drive of a game to the second; 'I can do this more than I thought on tape watching him against someone else.' But they're also familiar with us."

Special teams: Punter Adam Podlesh finished with a season-low 28.8-yard net average in the first matchup between these teams, and he hit a line-drive punt in that contest that Micheal Spurlock returned 57 yards to set up a Matthew Stafford touchdown run. The game nearly cost Podlesh his job.

"I think Adam's been consistent really since that time," special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said. "He's really picked his game up. He made some slight changes, and it's helped him. I'm glad he's going in the right direction."

That needs to continue against the Lions.

DeCamillis said the Bears played the kind of game Monday night where "we had 11 out there, but 10 guys played a lot of plays," which is unacceptable. The team's punt protection also allowed a blocked punt against the Packers.

"When you look back at the film, it wasn't just that punt," DeCamillis said. "There was kickoff return yardage that was left out there where there is one guy sitting in the hole because somebody gets beat. We've got to get all 11 going at the same time, and that was obviously critical during this past week."

It'll be the same Sunday unless the Bears resolve those issues.

Focus on returns paying off for Hester

September, 18, 2013
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Devin Hester Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesDevin Hester had a career day against the Vikings on Sunday.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Those personal-best 249 return yards Devin Hester racked up for the Chicago Bears on Sunday appear to have been born from a conversation early in the summer.

New coach Marc Trestman revealed Monday that it was Hester who suggested that a reduction in responsibilities could help him to once again be the kind of return man who used to pile up weekly honors while heading off to Pro Bowls.

“The conversation, to my recollection, was, ‘It sounds to me like you just want to be a returner, and that’s OK with me. I would like you to be the returner and focus solely on that,’” Trestman said.

The revelation debunks a common belief that Hester was demoted to a return-only role after years of mostly choppy results as a wide receiver.

“I don’t ever remember me telling him that that was the way it’s going to be,” Trestman said. “I remember our conversation being more like, ‘I know that’s what you want to do, and I’m all-in.’ That’s sort of the way I remember it.

“Now, this was six and a half months ago. It was literally the second week I was here, I think. And it just stopped right there. [Special-teams coach] Joe [DeCamillis] started meeting with him, and we started developing a dialogue when we saw each other. It wasn’t complicated at all. It just seemed to happen that way.”

(Read full post)

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Offense and defense dominate most of the conversation about the matchup between the Chicago Bears and Cincinnati Bengals, but special teams could ultimately decide the winner in this one.

Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis and head coach Marc Trestman understand the challenge the Bears face Sunday when they host the Bengals at Soldier Field.

“Special teams is going to be huge,” Trestman said. “They’re sitting there with (Brandon) Tate and (Adam) Pacman Jones as their returners. They’re both exceptional. They’ve been as aggressive as any team in the National Football League in the last few years in faking field goals and making big plays. They’ve got speed on their team just like we do. They’ve got a punter (Kevin Huber) who can direct kicks and kicks it high. It’s the first of three left-footed punters we’re going to see over the next three weeks. That’ll be an issue just covering kicks and doing those types of things.”

Huber set Cincinnati’s record for gross punting average (46.6 yards) last season, as well as net average (42). In addition, Huber led the NFL last season in punts downed inside the 5 (11). During the preseason, Huber averaged 44.9 yards on punts (39.3-yard net), and hit three inside the 20 with no touchbacks.

Kicker Mike Nugent, who missed the last four games of 2012 with a calf injury, hit 19-of-23 attempts, including a 55-yarder against Oakland. The year before, Nugent set team records for field goals (33) and points (132).

“The field goal kicker is a real solid guy and the punter is a real solid guy,” DeCamillis said. “Darrin Simmons is the coach and does a great job. It’s going to be a heck of a challenge for us coming right out the gate.”

Tate is already Cincinnati’s career leader in punt return average (10.1 yards), and Jones, who didn’t return a punt in the preseason, has returned five punts for touchdowns during his career, including one last season. Only Chicago’s Devin Hester has returned more punts for TDs (12) than Jones among active players.

“They’ve got excellent returns,” DeCamillis said.

Jones ranked seventh in 2012 in punt return average (11.6 yards). Meanwhile, Tate averaged 24.8 yards on kickoff returns, and finished the preseason with a 30.5-yard average on four returns. Tate also returned a punt for a TD in the preseason.

“There’s a lot of issues on special teams,” Trestman said. “It’s going to be huge. We feel we’ve got good matchups. We feel it’s going to be a heck of a game from that standpoint.”
We're Black and Blue All Over:

It looks like I picked a pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good moment to turn over the majority of our Green Bay Packers coverage to new teammate Rob Demovsky. Two big stories broke Sunday night, one that provides some entertainment value but another that will have a deep impact on the team and the entire division.

As Demovsky wrote, the Packers will work out free agent quarterback Vince Young on Monday. There are no quarterback controversies in Green Bay as long as Aaron Rodgers is healthy, and it's not clear if the Packers are even seeking competition for backup Graham Harrell, but it's not often that the Packers even work out a veteran free agent of Young's prominence.

More important, however, the Packers might lose left tackle Bryan Bulaga to a significant injury, news that would cripple the offseason overhaul of their offensive line. As we noted earlier this summer, the entire effort of flipping both tackles and guards centered around getting their best possible option -- Bulaga -- at left tackle.

If Bulaga is in fact lost for a long period of time, we'll see if the Packers have a better option than returning deposed starter Marshall Newhouse to the position. At the moment, it doesn't appear that they do.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder told Tom Pelissero of USA Today that his throwing shoulder, repaired via surgery in 2009, is finally feeling fully healed.
  • Kent Youngbood of the Star Tribune profiles rookie Vikings receiver Adam Thielen, who played in college at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
  • According to Ben Goessling of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil returned to his playing weight after a bout of pneumonia with a menu that looks like this: "Three shakes a day -- each packing about 800 calories and 60 grams of protein -- interspersed between three square meals of lean meat, pastas and sweet potatoes, plus three snacks, usually peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. In a pinch, he permits himself the occasional Chipotle burrito, but not much else."
  • Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press profiles Detroit Lions cornerback Bill Bentley, who is one of the team's hardest workers.
  • Lions defensive backs have increased the intensity of training camp practices, according to Chris McCosky of the Detroit News.
  • Lions rookie running back Theo Riddick injured his toe in Sunday's practice, notes Justin Rogers of Mlive.com.
  • Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune profiles Chicago Bears special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis, who is still suffering from effects of injuries he suffered four years ago in the collapse of the Dallas Cowboys' practice facility.
  • Injuries are piling up for the Chicago Bears, writes Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com.
  • The battle between the Bears' secondary and their tall receivers has been the best of training camp, according to Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Sam Monson's snap-by-snap analysis of Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman's 2012 season over at Pro Football Focus includes a detailed breakdown of Tillman's two games against Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson.

When matched up against Tillman in those two games, Johnson caught five passes on 14 targets. Of those catches, all but one came when Tillman was in a soft "Cover-3" shell that appeared to Monson to be designed to concede short routes.

Those figures proved a metaphor for Tillman's entire season. According to Monson, Tillman allowed 28 completions in 38 targets last season when in that softer coverage, but that percentage dipped to 34 receptions in 59 targets when he was in Cover-2 or man defense.

Everyone associates Tillman with his record-breaking ability to force fumbles from his position. But the crux of Monson's piece is that Tillman had an excellent 2012 season in coverage, far better than people might give him credit for, when given a chance by the scheme. The conclusion: "Charles Tillman might just be Darrelle Revis trapped in a zone defense."

The entire analysis is worth your time here on a steamy July morning. Continuing around the NFC North:
PHOENIX -- The Chicago Bears' new regime has been signaling for a while that it considers Devin Hester to be primarily a returner at this stage in his career. On Wednesday, coach Marc Trestman revealed how serious the team is about narrowing Hester's duties.

Hester
Speaking at the NFL owners meeting, Trestman said that Hester will spend most of his time during the Bears' offseason program with special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis. Asked if Hester will even practice with receivers during organized team activities (OTAs), Trestman said: "I don't know yet. We're going to talk about that next week. Most of the time he will be with Joe, meeting with Joe and spending time with Joe."

Trestman also reiterated general manager Phil Emery's expectation that Hester will "compete" for the returner's job, although I think we all know that Hester's skills would have to decline significantly for him not to be the best returner on the Bears' roster.

I tossed Trestman's sentiments onto Twitter a few minutes ago and your collective and overwhelming response was this: "It's about time." Real or imagined, many of us have wondered if the Bears got too greedy after Hester revealed his elite open-field running skills as a returner.

It was worth finding out if he could extend it into a full-time receiving role, but his 49 receptions and two touchdowns since the start of the 2011 season isn't enough production to merit a splitting of duties -- and presumably a watered-down impact. That has been especially clear since the team traded for Brandon Marshall and drafted Alshon Jeffery last year; Trestman spoke Wednesday as if he expected that pair to be his primary starters in 2013.

Hester didn't have a touchdown return last season but had three as recently as 2011. He will turn 31 in November, which is middle age for a receiver but probably not a multi-purpose threat. The Bears had reached the point in his career when it was time to make a choice, and it makes perfect sense to pick the part of his skill set that is Hall of Fame worthy.

Although he hasn't made a direct public comment about the situation that I'm aware of, it's fair to assume Hester is on board. As we noted earlier month, a post on Hester's Instagram account said he was "a bear 4 life."

More to come from the meetings in a bit.
When we last heard from Chicago Bears returner/receiver Devin Hester, he had backed off his threat to retire but was still suggesting he might benefit from a fresh start with another franchise. Tuesday, Hester used a post on his Instagram account to imply he has had a change of heart.

Hester
The post read: "For all my Bears fan #yes. I'm a bear 4 life.# Beardown!!!!!

(For those wondering, Hester verified this Instagram via Twitter in January.)

So what exactly does it mean that Hester is a "bear 4 life?" At this point, all we can say is that Hester expects to play for the Bears in 2013. Update: Many of you are wondering if Hester is saying he will be a "bear 4 life" even though he plans to move on to another team. I don't think that's the case, but I guess I should acknowledge that possibility. My understanding is that the Bears have plans for him in 2013 and don't want him to move on.

Entering this week, Hester had one year remaining on the contract extension he signed in 2008. It called for a $1.857 million base salary, a $250,000 workout bonus and a cap figure of $2.940 million. The Bears could lower that cap number a bit through either a reduction of that base salary or a contract extension, but as of Tuesday evening I've not confirmed that Hester has a new deal.

In the end, of course, it's difficult to predict the futures of most NFL players beyond the upcoming season, regardless of their contract status. What we can reasonably say is that, after a predictable emotional reaction to the Bears' coaching staff and his own stalled career as a receiver, cooler heads have prevailed. (At least, that's my take on it.)

It's not hard to imagine that new Bears special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis would prefer Hester, the greatest returner in NFL history, on his team rather than elsewhere. It's not clear if the Bears have any plans for Hester on offense -- Bears general manager Phil Emery said last month at the NFL scouting combine that Hester will "compete to be our returner" -- but Hester might well be satisfied with that role.

The Bears have an established three-receiver set of Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett and could add to it through the draft. I would back a decision to de-emphasize Hester from the Bears' offense to focus him as a returner. Using him in both roles always felt like burning the proverbial candle at both ends. As he approaches his 31st birthday, it's best for Hester and the Bears to understand what he is -- and isn't.

NFC North links: Matthews in line for raise

February, 19, 2013
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Chicago Bears

Creating additional salary-cap space can be accomplished by re-structuring Julius Peppers' contract, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.

Joe DeCamillis is pleased that the Bears will stick with their base 4-3 defense.

Detroit Lions

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock says Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones would be a good fit for the Lions. Mayock: "If he checks out medically, he's a top-10 player, and hopefully an impact player. So he's a guy that could make a whole lot of sense in Detroit."

Wide receiver Nate Burleson has made his pitch to help get running back Reggie Bush to Detroit.

Green Bay Packers

Linebacker Clay Matthews is already in line for a hefty raise heading into the 2013 season.

By releasing center Jeff Saturday on Monday, the Packers cleared $3.75 million in salary-cap space.

Minnesota Vikings

The Pioneer Press' Bob Sansevere on Monday talked with Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president of public affairs and stadium development, about the latest developments in the team's new stadium.

Dan Wiederer of the Star Tribune examines the Vikings' six offensive free agents and projects how things might play out.

Bears: First glance at Mel Tucker

January, 21, 2013
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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.

[+] EnlargeMel Tucker
Jason O. Watson/Getty ImagesMarc 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.
By the end of Sunday, it's possible the Chicago Bears will have concluded their first round of interviews in what has already been an epic coaching search. Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was scheduled to be the 13th known candidate to speak with general manager Phil Emery. If there are more first-round interviews scheduled, they haven't been reported.

My educated guess is that some interviews have been completed in secrecy, so I wouldn't be surprised if Emery has spoken with 15 or more candidates. We've discussed the possibility that Emery is using this opportunity to pick the brains of as many smart assistant coaches as he can, but I think we have also seen an undeniable quality emerge as well.

Here's how Tennessee Titans general manger Ruston Webster put it last week during an interview with my AFC South colleague Paul Kuharsky on 104.5-FM in Nashville: "I know Phil Emery, and Phil Emery is about as thorough of a human being as I've ever known."

Meanwhile, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, two of the coaches Emery has spoken with said "they never have interviewed with anyone as prepared and detailed" as him.

So before we try to ascribe some kind of ulterior motive to Emery's approach, and rather than conclude he is flailing blindly in the night, perhaps this search is best viewed as a physical extension of Emery's meticulous personality. Where and when it ends remains anyone's guess. Former NFL coach Jimmy Johnson tweeted that Emery favored his former assistant, current Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman, but nothing more has come of what appears to be Johnson's personal view.

For the record, here are the Bears' Lucky 13 to this point:
  1. Arians
  2. Atlanta Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong
  3. Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell
  4. New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr.
  5. Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements
  6. Dallas Cowboys special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis
  7. Houston Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison
  8. Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy
  9. Minnesota Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer
  10. Vikings special assistant to the head coach Mike Singletary.
  11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan
  12. Trestman
  13. Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub
After a wild 24 hours of news, action and quarterback intrigue for the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings, let's catch up on the Chicago Bears' coaching search as it enters its second week.

What stands out is how wide the Bears' net is. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the Bears have either already interviewed or plan to speak with about a dozen candidates before circling back to a second round. Most of candidates have backgrounds on offense and, according to Schefter, they have all been told that two finalists will visit Halas Hall this week before an offer is made.

The names of nine coaches have emerged or been reported in recent days. The latest are Houston Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, who is eligible to interview this week, and longtime NFL assistant Marc Trestman, who is currently the head coach of the CFL's Montreal Alouettes. Trestman will interview Monday. The Bears are also scheduled to speak Sunday with Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.

Already, the Bears have interviewed Atlanta Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong, Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, New Orleans offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. and Dallas Cowboys special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis.

In addition to McCoy, Dennison and Trestman, the Bears have requested permission to speak with Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements and Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.

None of those coaches have defensive backgrounds, which makes the focus of general manager Phil Emery's search clear. It's worth noting that respected defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli remains under contract and employed by the team. But there are almost certainly other names on Emery's list that have not yet emerged publicly, and some could have defensive backgrounds. Stay tuned.
The Chicago Bears have sought permission to interview seven known candidates this week for their vacant head-coaching position, according to reports. Five are offensive coordinators, two are special-teams coordinators and not one has a primary background as a defensive head coach.

What does that tell us about general manager Phil Emery's goals and objectives in this process?

First, we should make clear that the list of seven, whose names are at the bottom of this post, might not be all of the candidates Emery has targeted. Others could have gone undiscovered to this point by reporters or have been kept under the radar for competitive reasons.

But it's certainly worth noting that Emery appears to be most interested in the offensive side of the ball, the part of the team he said Tuesday was most disappointing under former coach Lovie Smith. NFL teams routinely seek out candidates that offer a stark contrast to the predecessor, and an offensive schemer would certainly qualify given Smith's background on defense.

It's possible that some of the candidates are being interviewed as potential offensive coordinators. You also wonder if Emery is leaving open the possibility for an offensive-minded coach to preserve the Bears' defensive staff, led by coordinator Rod Marinelli. Emery said Tuesday that all assistants were given an extra year on their contracts last season, meaning they all remain obligated to stay with the team unless the new coach fires them.

Again, it's difficult to draw too many conclusions based on what might be an incomplete list. All we can say at the moment is that there are no confirmed candidates with defensive backgrounds to this point.

The offensive coordinators: Bruce Arians (Indianapolis Colts), Pete Carmichael Jr. (New Orleans Saints), Tom Clements (Green Bay Packers), Mike McCoy (Denver Broncos), Mike Sullivan (Tampa Bay Buccaneers),

The special teams coordinators: Keith Armstrong (Atlanta Falcons), Joe DeCamillis (Dallas Cowboys).
It's too bad the networks can't flex-schedule press conferences. Because Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery gave one of the most expansive and content-rich pressers in recent memory at a time -- New Years' morning -- when many Bears fans and perhaps some reporters were, uh, less than ideally equipped to provide rapt attention.

Emery provided a candid explanation for why he fired coach Lovie Smith after a 10-6 season, explained in unprecedented detail why he didn't address the Bears' offensive line last offseason, and was appropriately non-committal about the future of longtime franchise face Brian Urlacher.

[+] EnlargePhil Emery
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhBears general manager Phil Emery was candid about his reasons for firing head coach Lovie Smith.
Our friends at ESPNChicago.com have it all wrapped up on their Bears blog. I'm not sure I totally accepted Emery's explanation for the state of his offensive line -- essentially that he judged the acquisition of playmakers last winter to be more important considering the quality of line options available -- but that is a discussion over spilled milk. What's done is done there, and Emery will have more chances to address the line this winter.

What I thought was most important for the franchise was Emery's clear message of heightened expectations. In essence, Emery said that simply winning a lot of games -- as Smith did over the past nine years -- isn't good enough.

"Our No. 1 goal always has to be to win championships," Emery said. "And to win championships, we must be in contention on a consistent basis. And to be in contention, we have to be in the playoffs on a consistent basis."

Smith had an 81-63 regular-season record, but missed the playoffs in five of the past six years. Emery specifically quoted that drought Tuesday. He bluntly said the Smith's offenses were too inconsistent over time, and implied Smith had enough time to fix them. "We searched for answers," Emery said.

There is a risk in firing a coach who has won consistently, if not at a championship level. The next guy might not be able to win at all. That's the primary argument we've heard from those who think Smith should have been retained. Tuesday, however, Emery made clear he isn't willing to settle for good coaching or even very good coaching. He wants the best.

A year after taking control of football operations, Emery has ended an era during which the Bears were lulled into accepting good years instead of great ones. Lovie Smith is a very good head coach. By firing him, and by definition implying that the next coach will be better, Emery has set a high bar for himself and the franchise. But if you're a Bears fan, would you want it any other way?

Related: ESPN's working list of candidates that Emery has reached out to interview now includes four men: Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, Atlanta Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong, Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan and Dallas Cowboys special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis.

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