David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
The Bears defense has been terrible all season long and many people have been making excuses for defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. No more excuses, he's clearly not the man for the job.
There was little evidence that he would be. His defenses ranked in the bottom eight in terms of scoring three out of four years in Jacksonville. The one year they didn't, was the year Peyton Manning didn't play and they faced the Texans with the combination of Matt Leinart and T.J. Yates at quarterback. That year, nobody in their division scored even 24 points per game. They faced three teams all year that averaged over 25 points per game and in those three games they gave up an average of 34 points. It was quite clearly a case where they weren't as good as their numbers indicated.
The excuse there was that he never had the talent to work with. That wasn't supposed to be a problem with the Bears and it shouldn't be.
Before you argue that injuries have taken their toll, take a look to the north and see what Green Bay's Dom Capers is doing without Clay Matthews. That team started their season without their two best defensive backs and have played the last two games without their two starting outside linebackers, yet they're giving up around 10 points per game fewer than the Bears.
The Cowboys went through a bunch of injuries—including playing without DeMarcus Ware for most of the game—against the Redskins, yet they held Washington to under 20 points.
Sure, some of the Bears players have aged. It certainly looks like Julius Peppers has one foot in the retirement home, but he indicated Tucker is to blame for his performance. Peppers told the Chicago Sun-Times that his ineffectiveness was due to scheme and game-planning more than anything else. If Tucker's game plan is really something that limits his most talented player, there's a big issue.
Before you doubt Peppers' story, consider that no team Tucker has coordinated has finished higher than 25th in sacks.
Tucker doesn't deserve all the blame. Injuries have hurt the team and a number of players aren't playing up to their potential. However, he's still at least partially responsible for that.
When players aren't effective, it's up to the coach to either find new players who will do a better job or run plays that will put them in better position. Tucker has made some subtle changes, but they looked lost once again against the Redskins. The Bears were regularly fooled by the read-option plays that every other team in the league seems to have figured out.
After leading the league in takeaways and finishing third in points allowed, the Bears defense is in a complete free fall.
If you're still inclined to blame age, injuries and the roster he has to work with, think about this: how is it possible that every player on the defense got worse? It simply isn't.
The Bears still have the talent to be a good defense. They may not be a top-10 unit anymore, but there's no reason they can't be at least in the top half of the league. If that's going to happen, however, they have to make a change. Tucker has given no indication that he's capable of running a Super Bowl-caliber defense.