It's safe to say that when the Chicago Bears hired Mel Tucker of the Jacksonville Jaguars this off-season, there were more than a few people surprised by the hiring. Rod Marinelli and Lovie Smith worked very hard over their years in Chicago together to build a defense that shattered records year in and year out, including this past season. So just what was it about Mel Tucker that made him so appealing to Marc Trestman? After all, Tucker is one of the only coaches on the entire staff that had no previous ties to Trestman or his associates.
First of all, Mel Tucker is an experienced coach around the league. He has spent the last five seasons as a defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns (2008) and Jacksonville Jaguars (2009-2012). In 2011, after just two seasons as the defensive coordinator with the Jaguars, his defense allowed just over 20 points per game, good enough for 11th in the NFL.
Before becoming the defensive coordinator in Cleveland, Trucker was the defensive backs coach, an area where the Browns excelled under Tucker. During that time, the team ranked 5th in the NFL with 73 interceptions and had the 7th overall pass defense in the entire league. As defensive coordinator in 2008, Tucker helped the Browns get 31 takeaways that season, good enough for third in the league. 24 of those 31 takeaways were interceptions.
How do you think the defense will do in Chicago under Mel Tucker?
Tucker also brings with him an impressive resume of coaches he has played under and worked with. He played college football for the University of Wisconsin Badgers, where he played defensive back under Barry Alvarez. This past season, when current Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema left the Badgers, Alvarez (who is now the athletic director at Wisconsin) was left looking for a new head coach. One of the first people he interviewed for the job was Mel Tucker.
Tucker's impressive resume of coaching references doesn't stop there. In 1997, Tucker began his coaching career as a graduate assistant with Michigan State University, under head coach Nick Saban. After going to Miami of Ohio for a season, Tucker rejoined Saban at LSU where he was named the defensive backs coach.
After his brief stint at LSU, Tucker left to coach under Jim Tressel at Ohio State University in the Big Ten Conference after three seasons as the defensive backs coach, Tucker was then promoted to co-defensive coordinator in 2004.
While Mel Tucker may have a resume that's not too shabby, the real question is what can he do with the talent he was handed when he came to Chicago in January. It's no secret that the defense is aging in Chicago, and Tucker is going to have to get the most out of his players right away. As of right now, he isn't even sure if he will have an eight-time Pro-Bowler in Brian Urlacher playing for him next season.
The pieces are all in place for Tucker to have great success in Chicago. With previous teams like the Browns and Jaguars, Tucker was able to get takeaways but the offense couldn't do anything with them. Now that the Bears have an offensive minded head coach in Marc Trestman, it looks like Tucker may finally have the offense he's been looking for to compliment his defense.
It's up to Tucker to keep the ball rolling with the Monsters of the Midway in Chicago. Last season was one for the record books as far as defensive stats goes, but the team was unable to keep it together down the stretch. If Tucker want's to have a fruitful career in Chicago, he is going to have to hit the ground running with the Bears. If not, he may find himself looking for a job alongside Lovie Smith next season.