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Saturday, January 10, 2009
Marinelli, Bears should be a good marriage


Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Chicago gave itself a clear offseason boost Saturday by hiring former Detroit coach Rod Marinelli as its new assistant head coach/defensive line. Marinelli might have been a failure as a head coach, but before he took the Lions job he was considered one of the top three defensive line coaches in the league.

During his career in Tampa Bay, Marinelli was known as an expert in teaching technique as well as a strong motivator who got the most out of every type of player. I'd be shocked if Marinelli didn't improve the Bears' defensive line, a talented group that didn't put much pressure on the quarterback in 2008.

The tricky part of Marinelli's arrival: He will report to an incumbent but beleaguered defensive coordinator. Many observers expected the Bears to fire defensive coordinator Bob Babich, but instead they cleared out most of his position coaches and have begun the process of adding new faces.

Will Babich be comfortable or threatened by Marinelli's presence? More importantly, who will have the closest relationship with coach Lovie Smith? Both Babich and Marinelli have long histories with Smith. Will he favor the advice of one over the other? The defensive coordinator should have final say, but Marinelli's title as assistant head coach gives him more authority than a typical defensive line coach. That title is often ceremonial, but in this case it likely means Marinelli's voice will be heard.

These are all issues that Smith presumably worked through before officially making this hire. If he manages it well, the decision could make a huge and positive impact on the Bears' defense.