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Thursday, September 29

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Bears Thu Dec 26 2013

Should He Stay Or Should He Go: Mel Tucker

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for GB bears icon.pngEditors Note: Before diving into the wonderful world of Bears football, I'd first like to wish everyone a Happy Holidays. Regardless of the days you celebrate, I truly wish that all of you got a chance to spend some quality time with your family. Some don't get that opportunity during this hectic time of year, and it's important to remember that, and truly appreciate it if you are so lucky to see the ones you love.

The Bears defense in 2013 has been historically bad. Over 1,600 rushing yards allowed over an eight game stretch has never happened in the history of the NFL. And it's all just one year and few lineup changes removed from a squad that nearly scored enough points to drag the lackluster offense into the playoffs during Lovie Smith's final campaign.

Mel Tucker took control of a unit with high expectations, and many gave little thought to the defense clearing the bar with ease. The talk around Chicago coming into the season was entirely focused on the offense. Could Trestman bring 21st century playcalling and coordination to a team that has struggled to score consistently for as long as any Bears fan can remember? Could he help Jay Cutler turn the corner?

Almost immediately, the questions reversed course. The Bears have given up 20 or more points in every single game this season -- a figure that is almost more stunning than the rush defense ineptitude we've experienced over the previous two months.

Injuries have been the wide cause of blame throughout. Henry Melton, Nate Collins, Kelvin Hayden, Charles Tillman, and Lance Briggs have all missed significant time with a variety of tears and breaks. It's also due to some really poor talent on the defense otherwise.

Shea McClellin, Chris Conte, and Major Wright have been the focal point of many teams game plans on a weekly basis, and none of have responded in a tangible fashion. Sure, McClellin could be one of the reasons the Bears still have a chance in the playoff race because of his blow to Aaron Rodgers, but the injury was nothing but a fluke. Each guy seems to make a massive, touchdown-allowing mistake on a weekly basis, and have no business being in the starting lineup once the season concludes.

The rookie fill-ins haven't done anything special either. Isaiah Frey has done a nice job filling in at nickel corner as a Phil Emery draft pick from 2012, but Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene were each being counted on to bring some youth and vitality to a defense lacking both. Instead, they've missed assignments, over-pursued, and failed to shed blocks at key times, making Bears fans wonder if they're going to add to the growing number of draft busts.

And then there is Julius Peppers. One of the highest paid players in the NFL hasn't had nearly the impact he has in previous seasons. Old age and declining skill could easily be the reason, as Father Time will never be defeated, but his decline in a scheme that demands pressure from the defensive line has been glaring.

The question this all leads to is whether or not Mel Tucker should be blamed for all of this? Surely the injuries aren't his fault, and neither is the lack of depth on the roster. But did he make a mistake by sticking with the one gap, Cover 2 scheme and terminology that Monte Kiffin made famous and Smith revolutionized? Probably.

We've seen glimpses of interesting blitz schemes and attacks from Tucker in an attempt to get the opposing offenses in third and long and making it easier on his players, though it doesn't happen or work often enough. The idea of the Bears morphing to a 3-4 is ridiculous based on the personnel, but would Tucker be better off with his own terminology and attacking 4-3 style?

He might not be around to find out. Though Trestman has called Tucker's performance this year "fantastic," a coach might need to take the fall because of how extreme the terrible play has been. His saving grace might be that so many of the defensive players are free agents that the idea of a new scheme with new personnel is just what the doctor ordered. He's had success in the past -- why can't it happen again?

Imagine what this team could be with even a league average defense. A three and out after a Bears kickoff might turn into taking the football at the 35-yard line, and only needing a couple first downs to already be in field goal range. Think of the possibilities if this offense, already ranking second in the league in points per game, could get the ball more often on shorter fields. Trestman might look like more of an offensive genius than he's already perceived to be.

Tucker should get another shot to see if he can do what he was hired for. Given better personnel that matches the scheme he'd rather play, he might be able to do some damage. Maybe bigger defensive tackles that take up more space could be the key to Bostic and Greene's success. Nevertheless, he should get 2014 to find out.

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