Mel Tucker is Lost: Do We Need to Find a New Coordinator?

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David Ridderhoff, Contributor

I analyze sports more than I breathe. As a guy who prides himself on knowledge of sports, I like to know as much as possible. I’ve done analysis for so long I believe I could reasonably run a facet of an NFL team. I could be the offensive or defensive coordinator of a bad team, with just a little help and some NFL-caliber personnel. But the more I watch the Chicago Bears, the more I question if Mel Tucker can.

As a Bears fan, I’m used to a suffocating defense and an offense that musters just enough points to end up with a win. Now, we seem to have flip-flopped the hero and sidekick role. The offense has scored more than enough points, averaging 29 per game, while the defense has been lacking to say the least, allowing 28 per game.

Now, most people will look at the head coach Marc Trestman’s offensive genius and laissez-fare, hands off, approach to defense as a huge reason. I look deeper. I look at the man Trestman put in charge of his defense.
Tucker used to coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns. Let’s think about those two team’s recent histories. Bad and bad. Yes, the defenses were better than the offenses, but not by enough to make them a legitimate team. If you remember the 2005 Bears, Kyle Orton’s offense consisted of dump-offs and check-downs, not to mention plenty of three-and-outs that involved no passes at all. What was that team’s record? 11-5. A defense can lead a team to the playoffs. Tucker’s never could.

So, the stats aren’t great, that could just be the personnel. But, it’s all about the eye test. Ben Roethlisberger beat up the Bears. Reggie Bush beat up the Bears. Drew Brees beat up the Bears.  How? The short game. Roethlisberger threw some long balls, but had a lot of intermediate and short-distance passes. Reggie Bush used his speed and agility to run around the porous Bear rush defense. Drew Brees pulled an Orton and got the Bears with three-yard dump-off passes all game long.

So, the short game kills the Bears. That’s funny, because when you watch tape, you’ll notice something. The linebackers are always 10-plus yards away from the line of scrimmage. Peculiar.

Yes, the Bears still technically run a “Tampa 2,” with the mike, or middle linebacker, playing almost as deep as the safeties, but not quite as deep. But, for the other linebackers to be 12 yards downfield, there is a problem with the scheme and play calling. If you are going to put the linebackers that far back every play, you might as well just throw out a cornerback or safety to play those positions; they’d do better in that area of the field than the linebackers.

Brees would throw five-yard passes to his running backs, who would turn and have open space all day. The point of the Cover-2 is to take away the middle of the field. The two huge soft spots are behind the cornerback’s flat zone and in front of the safety’s deep zone. The sidelines should be open for the taking, provided your receivers can sneak in there. But, the middle of the field has three huge linebackers who are ready to eat you up the second you get the ball, if you can even get it. So, giving the check downs a huge cushion is completely against the point of the entire defense. It’s like buying a HD television and never putting on the HD channels. You aren’t using it the way it was meant to be used.

I’m not calling for Tucker’s job yet. He could turn into a great coordinator for the team. But, he needs to get his act together, because at this rate, he might not be giving an encore presentation for the team.

David Ridderhoff is a junior Radio/TV broadcast major. He is the sports editor for The Flyer. He is also the general manager of Lewis’ radio station, WLRA. As an avid sports fan, he also collects hats and jerseys from a variety of sports teams.

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