Before the Bears made "The Trade" this offseason, team officials portrayed the remodeled coaching staff as the would-be saviors of the 2009 season.
Until then, no one knew it was even possible to hype a coaching staff, but that’s what happens when you don’t make any offseason moves to improve the team.
So we heard things like:
“Rod Marinelli is the greatest defensive line coach who has ever lived (That 0-16 thing, yeah, just forget about that).”
“Jon Hoke is the greatest…wait, who’s Jon Hoke again?”
“Bob Babich, yeah, not the greatest defensive coordinator, but hey, Lovie Smith is, and we already have him. Besides, everybody knows that Babich is the greatest linebackers coach of all time.”
I’ll admit, I even started to take the bait.
“If the Lions didn’t have the worst season in NFL history in 2008, Rod Marinelli wouldn’t have been fired," I thought to myself. "And Tommie Harris wouldn’t have the chance to return to Pro-Bowl form this season!”
But, alas, the Bears acquired Jay Cutler, and the hype surrounding the greatest coaching staff ever assembled died down.
Now, rather than discussing quarterback coaches, Bears fans can focus on what it will be like to watch an actual NFL quarterback take snaps for their favorite team.
It also gives us a chance to find out what these coaches can do, free from hyperbole.
What’s the old adage about coaches? Don’t put too much blame on them when things are going bad or too much praise on them when things are going good.
This fact too will be true for the Bears coaching staff in 2009. Because, ultimately, it’s up to the players as to whether or not a team succeeds.
I’m not going to say coaches can’t make any difference, because they can. And if they do, the Bears, who just barely missed the postseason in 2008, should be in good shape.
Depending on who you ask, Lovie Smith already was the defensive coordinator the past two seasons. Bob Babich was just Smith's puppet, I mean "friend."
Babich was promoted when Smith thought Ron Rivera wanted to run things “Chico’s Way.” But, since this is Lovie’s ship, Rivera was quickly forced to walk the plank.
Anyways, now it's official: Lovie is the defensive coordinator/head coach of the Bears.
And while Bears fans may clamor for Rivera, who found success in San Diego last season, this always was (and always will be, as long as he's head coach) Smith’s defense.
The Tampa 2 defense, which the Bears run, is Lovie's baby. It will be the defense regardless of who holds the (superficial) title of coordinator.
So what will the difference be in 2009? Probably not much.
Some seem to think the team will suffer because calling the defense will take away from Lovie's in-game head coaching duties. I don’t buy it.
I doubt fans will notice much of a difference in either the defensive play calling or game management.
However, I know that Lovie commands respect in the Bears’ locker room. The players don’t want to let him down. Even they had to know Babich was a pawn.
As for Marinelli, the Bears' new defensive line coach, it’s really quite simple: The D-line must show improvement, thereby affirming that all the buildup for Marinelli wasn’t a mirage.
It’s rare that assistant coaches get so much press and garner any excitement (even if most of it came from the team).
Heck, they even gave Marinelli the cushy title of assistant head coach and made him the second-highest paid coach on the staff.
Since being signed, Marinelli's praises have been sung by players who witnessed his D-line coaching prowess firsthand. Many of them were from the Tampa Bay Bucs' Super Bowl-winning team.
Marinelli has, on numerous occasions from multiple sources, been called (and this isn’t sarcasm this time; I promise) the best D-line coach in the game.
Anyway, the defensive line is quite possibly the unit that will be most responsible for the Bears' success in ‘09.
That group has underachieved the last two seasons, and for the Bears to return to elite status, the line will have to revert to ’05-’06 form.
Any chance that the Bears have of returning to the Super Bowl hinges on the defense proving that the last two seasons were aberrations. That was the case before the Bears traded for Cutler. That hasn’t changed.
Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner is in an enviable position.
What with having the best quarterback the Bears may ever have had, but at least since Turner’s first go-around in the '90s when Eric Kramer was calling signals for the boys in black and blue.
Turner’s offense thrived in the mid-'90s when he actually had a quarterback. Now he has the best one he will likely ever have, and with that comes added pressure.
Turner has been praised for keeping the talentless, no-quarterback-having offenses of the last few years afloat. Now the Bears O must do more than tread water. They must become Michael Phelps.
Save for the wide receiver position, the talent is there: Cutler, Matt Forte, the tight ends, a revamped offensive line.
Turner might not have as hard a job as Smith and Marinelli. That doesn’t he mean he shouldn't be working overtime this offseason, putting the offense in a position to succeed.
By having Cutler, Turner is the envy of 20-or-so of his fellow offensive coordinators. But he has to show that all the acclaim he received when times were tough was deserved, not just sympathy.