Chicago Bears: Predicting the Success of Marc Trestman and Staff
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Marc Trestman wasted no time putting together his coaching staff for the Chicago Bears’ 2013 season. With Lovie Smith’s firing after a 10-6 season that saw the Bears miss the playoffs, it is obvious that Trestman must win now - and win big. Nothing but the playoffs will sate Phil Emery.
Did Trestman assemble a staff that can put the Bears in Super Bowl contention next season? The following slides will predict how successful the five most prominent coaches (all new hires) will be in Chicago.
Matt Cavanaugh, QBs Coach
Matt Cavanaugh with Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow.
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Most recent position: QBs Coach, New York Jets (2009-2012)
While position coaches are normally subject to less scrutiny than coordinators and head coaches, Matt Cavanaugh will surely receive more attention than the average position coach.
One reason Trestman was brought to Chicago is his great track record with quarterbacks, from working with Bernie Kosar in Cleveland to the success of Rich Gannon with Oakland's Super Bow team. Emery and Chicago fans are waiting for Cutler to stop underachieving. Cutler had good rapport with the previous QBs coach Jeremy Bates, who worked with him in Denver before Chicago. Bates was not asked back under Trestman.
Have Trestman and Emery found someone better?
It seems hard to argue that anyone who hasn’t worked with the ornery quarterbacks coach would be an upgrade over Bates. On top of that, Cavanaugh was the position coach responsible for the debacle that is Mark Sanchez.
The Jets often managed to win games in spite of Sanchez’s mediocrity and inconsistency. With a career completion percentage of 55.1 and interceptions than touchdowns, Sanchez’s stats do not inspire much confidence in Cavanaugh.
It is, however, entirely possible that Cavanaugh has been working wonders with Sanchez. Perhaps he would have been out of the league quicker than Ryan Leaf if not for Cavanaugh’s guidance.
Greg McElroy, the third-string quarterback in New York, whose first action was late in a Jets comeback against the Arizona Cardinals, posted a 61.3 completion percentage along with one touchdown and one interception. While hardly a representative sample, those stats are significantly better than the stats Chicago’s backup quarterbacks have posted in recent years.
Is there any doubt that Jay Cutler is far more talented than Sanchez and McElroy?
It still seems baffling that Bates was let go for Cavanaugh. Brandon Marshall even spoke publicly about wanting to stay with Bates for the rest of his career.. The only bright side of this hire is that Cavanaugh may help Jay coax more production out of Kellen Davis, who has been plagued by drops. Cavanaugh’s first coaching job was with tight ends, and Dustin Keller was effective for the Jets.
The predictions are much better than his grade should indicate due to the presence of Kromer and Trestman.
Overall grade: C-
Bears 2013 prediction: 11th in passing yards, 10th in passing TDs, 22nd in interceptions.
Joe DeCamillis, ST Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach
Most recent position: ST Coordinator, Dallas Cowboys (2009-2012)
DeCamillis actually interviewed for the Bears’ head coaching position, so it seems like a steal to hire him on as special teams coordinator with the added title of assistant head coach. In reality, this is another loss for the Bears’ coaching staff.
Bears fans are all familiar with the wonders Dave Toub worked in Chicago from 2004 to 2012. He helped produce Pro Bowlers Devin Hester, Robbie Gould, Brendon Ayanbadejo Corey Graham and, later, Danieal Manning. Hester will go down as an all-time great. Gould is one of the most accurate kickers in the history of the NFL.
Toub was an innovative mind; his play in the 2011 Packers game was among the most incredible I’ve ever seen, but Knox's touchdown was unfortunately erased on a phantom holding call).
I mention all of Toub’s accomplishments for one simple reason: DeCamillis lacks each of them. Track record, rapport with Hester, and unique innovation.
DeCamillis is considered one of the best special teams coaches in the league and led a strong special teams unit in Dallas. His track record still can’t touch Toub’s.
Dez Bryant and Dan Bailey were very good last year, but the Cowboys also allowed several return touchdowns. Toub’s unit averaged a league-low 3.4 yards per return allowed on punts last season. The next-closest team averaged 6.0 punt return yards allowed, while Dallas averaged 9.6. That’s just one example of Toub’s influence across the board with special teams. He has simply been the best in the league.
Toub’s rapport with Hester is also important. Since Hester has expressed discontent with the game and potential retirement, it might not take much to push him over the edge. While Hester was much less effective in 2012, he is still electric and alters other teams’ game plans. DeCamillis needs to keep him happy and keep him around.
Finally, DeCamillis lacks the spark that Toub brought to the Bears. Chicago always had a wrinkle in their special teams’ plan that took them to the next level. DeCamillis will need to replicate that to keep the Bears on the same level.
DeCamillis is by no means a bad hire. He is one of the best you can get at his position, but he has the unlucky task of filling Dave Toub’s shoes, a tough act to follow. The front office cannot be blamed, as Toub left to join Andy Reid and build his credentials for a head coaching position. Regardless, this is a downgrade.
Overall grade: B+
Bears 2013 prediction: 7th in average punt return yards allowed, 15th in average punt return yards.
Mel Tucker, Defensive Coordinator
Mel Tucker is only 41, 7 years older than Brian Urlacher.
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Most recent position: Defensive Coordinator, Jacksonville Jaguars (2009-2012)
Mark this down as three straight downgrades in coaching.
Marinelli was given the chance to stay on as defensive coordinator in Chicago, but he refused to do so after Lovie’s dismissal. Marinelli is a loyal and humble coach who builds good rapport with players. He was effective at running the Tampa 2, and he brought the Bears’ defense back to heights last seen in 2006 (under Ron Rivera).
Mel Tucker will have his work cut out for him as a young coach trying to win over a veteran team. The Bears’ defense was very unhappy to see Lovie go, and Marinelli would have provided some continuity. Instead, Tucker will step in and try to win over Urlacher, Briggs, Peppers, Tillman, and company.
Tucker has run both 3-4 and 4-3 defenses, but he presumably will install a 4-3 base defense and show some Cover 2. His scheme has been called similar to Smith and Marinelli’s Tampa 2, which is a positive sign. Much has been made of his low blitz percentages, which were explained as him not having the talent and choosing not to blitz for the sake of blitzing.
The Jaguars’ defense was riddled with injuries and far less talented than the Bears’ defense, so reading too far into any of his stats may be misleading. He didn’t bring much pressure in Jacksonville though. They ranked dead last in sacks last year with 20, as no Jaguar recorded more than 3.5.
Tucker was still a highly coveted coach, and he is incredibly young. He has an approach similar to Smith and Marinelli – he is a players’ coach. This will help him get the grizzled vets to buy into his defense right away. Tucker also emphasizes turnovers, perfect for the Bears’ ball-hawking defense, and his teams produced them at a high rate in 2008 (3rd) and 2011 (11th).
The reason this is a downgrade is because of timing. Tucker is young, and while it may be hard to read into his stats with two subpar teams, he didn’t work wonders in Cleveland or Jacksonville. His teams ranked 26th, 23rd, 28th, 6th, and 30th in total yards allowed. They ranked 16th, 24th, 27th, 11th, and 19th in points allowed. Tucker isn’t a sure bet, even though he is up and coming. The Bears need to win now.
Many NFL coaches and media pundits have suggested Tucker was a great hire. I’m not sure he can produce an elite defense right away, and there’s no concrete evidence to suggest he can. Meanwhile, the Bears’ veterans creep toward retirement.
It would have been ideal if Marinelli had stayed.
Overall grade: B
Bears 2013 prediction: 10th in yards allowed, 11th in points allowed, 16th in sacks, 2nd in takeaways.
Aaron Kromer, Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach
Jahri Evans is one of the offensive linemen Kromer tutored in New Orleans.
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Most recent position: Offensive Line Coach, New Orleans Saints (2009-2012)
Kromer will take over for Mike Tice, who couldn’t get things going in one season as offensive coordinator. Mike Martz was too inflexible with personnel, while Mike Tice wasn’t creative enough. Kromer comes from one of the most successful offenses in the league and hopefully New Orleans’ success will transfer to Chicago.
The Saints have been known for an aggressive, explosive, and unpredictable offense the past few years. They vary their formations to keep defenses off balance and take advantage of their players’ strengths. Marques Colston’s size, Lance Moore’s speed, Jimmy Graham’s athleticism, and Darren Sproles’ agility are all utilized.
With Kromer coming in, expect the Bears to spread around more than last year, in which Brandon Marshall was thrown to 194 times; the next-most for a receiver was just 49. Matt Forte’s catches out of the backfield will increase (career-low targets and receptions in 2012), Devin Hester may actually be used on offense, and Kellen Davis may produce some modicum of offense.
Kromer has a little head coaching experience at the NFL level from last season as well. With the bounty scandal hitting the coaching staff hard, Kromer was interim head coach for the first six games. The Saints didn’t score lower than 24 in any of those games, despite going 2-4. The Bears averaged 23.6 points per game in 2012, and a good chunk of those were from the defense.
Kromer’s biggest strength is the offensive line, which was Tice’s calling card as well. While Tice improved the offensive line, Kromer could work wonders with it. Kromer would be aided by a different left tackle than J’Marcus Webb, but there’s good reason to believe he’ll keep Cutler upright regardless. The Saints allowed 26, 24, 26, and 20 sacks over the past four years. The Bears allowed 44, 49, a league-high 56, and 35 over that span.
It seems likely that Chicago’s tough quarterback will stay off his back next season.
The Saints’ offense has not been outstanding in the running game, but they’ve used Darren Sproles more as a receiver than traditional running back. Matt Forte has a similar skill set, but expect to see him involved in both dimensions of the offense.
The Bears under Kromer and Trestman will move the ball through the air in large chunks. With better protection for Cutler, it might be his best season as a pro.
Overall grade: B+
Bears 2013 predictions: 8th in yards per game, 8th in points per game, 14th in sacks allowed.
Marc Trestman, Head Coach
Highlights from the Montreal Alouettes' 2009 Grey Cup victory.
Most recent position: Head Coach, Montreal Alouettes (2008-2012)
Marc Trestman’s offensive success in Chicago will depend more on himself than his coaches. Trestman has said he will call the plays in 2013. Hopefully Kromer will keep Cutler upright and Trestman’s knowledge of the game will take care of the rest.
By all accounts (except Tim Brown’s), Trestman is an offensive genius. He’s worked with Bernie Kosar, Rich Gannon, Steve Young, Jake Plummer, and CFL all-time great Anthony Calvillo. His expertise and knowledge should help him catapult Cutler into the elite of the league. His previous experience working with Cutler as a consultant won’t hurt, either.
Trestman runs an aggressive offense that should mesh well with Kromer’s style. His west coast scheme is perfectly suited to Brandon Marshall and Marshall has expressed excitement over the hire. Trestman often called for quick passes from Anthony Calvillo that sure-handed receivers turned into large gains. Montreal was one of the highest-scoring offenses every year Trestman was head coach.
The most important question is if Trestman can take the Bears to the playoffs. In his first year as offensive coordinator for the Browns, 49ers, Lions, Cardinals, and Raiders, each team went to the playoffs. He lost in the Grey Cup his first year as head coach of the Alouettes, and won the next two Grey Cups.
So, there’s no doubt that Marc Trestman has the ability to win in his first year and win big.
A lot hinges on Mel Tucker and his ability to coach the defense at an elite level. Lovie Smith’s staff (especially Toub and Marinelli) was highly effective. Lovie’s defense and special teams broke records consistently, and Tucker’s job depends on matching that production.
Trestman had four defensive coordinators in five years in Montreal. On the bright side, that shows that Trestman would not make the same mistake Lovie made when he retained Mike Martz. On the down side, it could mean that Trestman has no idea how to manage a defense.
I expect Trestman to get the most out of Cutler and ride an experienced defense to the playoffs. Ironically, with a tough schedule next year, I think Trestman and the Bears finish with the same record as last season. It will be good enough to get Chicago to the playoffs for the first time since 2010, though.
Overall grade: B+
Bears 2013 prediction: 10-6