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Bears Wed Oct 09 2013

A Position The Bears Didn't Upgrade Last Offseason

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for GB bears icon.pngWhen an NFL head coach gets fired, it's rare for any of the other assistants to stay on with the new regime. Of course the guy running the show is the most important position to worry about, but losing quality coordinators can have a deep impact as well.

Exhibit A: the Bears special teams unit. When Lovie Smith was hired in 2004, he brought in Dave Toub, who at the time had only coached defensive line at the University of Missouri for three years, and a quality control coach in Philadelphia for another three. The hiring was a revelation for the squad. Talk radio callers would wail about the ineptitude of the Bears offensive coordinator, or not enough blitzing in Smith's Cover 2 scheme, but never about the third phase.

Ranking special teams units against each other is fairly difficult because so much of the value is tied up in the kicker (Robbie Gould is third all time in accuracy -- good) and punter (Brad Maynard in 2006 is the only time a Bears P has averaged more than 43 yards per punt in this century -- bad). Where a coach can really shine is by minimizing mistakes and setting up returners for big gains.

That's exactly what Toub did. Devin Hester might end up in the Hall of Fame one day because of game breaking ability, the Bears sent numerous other players that participated on special teams to the Pro Bowl, and mistakes were few and far between.

Toub has long been thought of as a potential head coach in the NFL, and after Smith's firing, the Bears actually interviewed him for the position that eventually went to Marc Trestman. The team offered him a contract to stay in Chicago, but Toub is loyal to the guys he works for, and decided to take an offer with former boss Andy Reid in Kansas City to coach the special teams unit there. The Bears turned to Joe DeCamillis, a well respected coordinator in his own right, but no Toub.

The difference has been monstrous. Outside of the game against the Vikings where Hester made a game-changing impact (and even then, the Bears allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown), the Bears special teams units have been a disaster. There's been multiple penalties for 12 men on the field, a roughing the kicker call, holding, personal fouls, and a blocked extra point. Sure, you can lay some of blame on the bottom of the roster (who are all typically playing special teams) being turned over for every game, but that happens everywhere in the NFL on a week-to-week basis.

It happened again versus the Saints on Sunday. Chris Conte and Charles Tillman were confused about who should be on the field, nearly resulting in a too many men penalty, and eventually causing a discombobulated Tillman to commit a hold and push the Bears starting position to the one-yard line. That's just the latest example of why Pro Football Focus has the Bears ranked 27th in the league overall.

If the Bears can't dominate the third phase, a lot more pressure gets put on the offense and defense to make more plays deep in their own half -- a dangerous proposition considering the struggles (pass protection on offense, quietly eighth worst according to PFF, and the defensive line, obviously bad) each unit is dealing with.

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