The Chicago Bears season is over, and so should Mel Tucker's stint as the team's defensive coordinator.
The Bears season ended thanks to a blown coverage by a player who probably shouldn't have been on the field in the first place. It was just one more mistake by the worst defense in the history of the franchise. The guy in charge of that defense has no business being back next season.
Tucker chose to bring a blitz and relied on safety Chris Conte to do his job and not get beat deep. Conte blew the coverage because Conte regularly blows coverages. By Week 17, it was one of the few things you could count on with the defense.
This is not to absolve Conte of all blame. Of course he has to do his job and not let someone run right by him when he doesn't have help over the top. He also missed an interception that should've sealed the game. He messes up regularly; it is who he is.
Yet he was never benched, not even for a single snap. In fact, Tucker didn't bench a single player for performance reasons all season.
A good coach doesn't keep asking players to do what they're incapable of.
It would be hard to say Anthony Walters isn't an upgrade. We'll never know because Tucker never bothered to try to find out. It's hard to see how Walters could have been worse.
Conte is just an example of players Tucker stuck with for no good reason.
There's no good reason Shea McClellin should've been playing over David Bass. McClellin isn't capable of holding up against the run. It was proven week after week. Yet Tucker kept starting him, and the Bears kept getting gashed on the ground.
They had injuries, but this isn't the first time a Bears team has had injuries. They're also not the only NFL team to suffer injuries. Yet that is the excuse Tucker has been given.
Lovie Smith had years with injuries.
In 2009 they had two starting linebackers—including Brian Urlacher— miss at least 14 games. Up front they started Anthony Adams and Marcus Harrison at defensive tackle next to a washed-up Tommie Harris with washed-up defensive ends Adewale Ogunleye and Alex Brown. Al Afalava started 13 games at safety that season, Kevin Payne added five starts and Josh Bullocks got four. Zackary Bowman was the corner opposite Charles Tillman.
That defense gave up 375 points and was ranked 21st in scoring. A worse roster, but much better results.
Should the Bears fire Mel Tucker
The Bears had injuries last season. Urlacher was gimpy at the beginning and missed the last few games. Henry Melton missed a couple games, Tim Jennings missed a couple games and Julius Peppers played the whole season with plantar fasciitis.
Yet they were arguably the best defense in the league. How did they drop so far so fast?
Nobody expected the Bears to still be a dominant unit with the number of injuries they had. However, there's no reason they should've been as bad as they were. They were as bad as they possibly could've been.
It isn't as if they were good before injuries destroyed their lineup. Through four games, the Bears gave up 28.5 points per game, 23.2 if you subtract the scores by the opposing defenses and special teams.
Prior to the season, the argument was that Tucker's defenses always stunk because the players he had always stunk. How is that possible? Isn't he involved in the draft process? Shouldn't a good coach get more out of his players? It can't be argued that Tucker does that.
If one guy is always coaching bad defenses, it can't be that the players are always bad. Terry Shea had injuries and bad players in his first years as the Bears offensive coordinator in 2004, but that doesn't mean he was a bad coordinator.
Perhaps the biggest indictment of Tucker is that the Bears defense got worse as the season progressed.
Injuries were the excuse used, yet when Lance Briggs came back in Week 16, they gave up 449 rushing yards and 80 points in their last two games. They also added Jeremiah Ratliff during the season but saw no improvement.
Blown coverages and missed tackles are staples of a Tucker-led defense.
Perhaps an even more inexplicable play came on Jarrett Boykin's fumble return for a touchdown. Julius Peppers forced a fumble and the ball sat on the ground for awhile, yet no Bears player made an attempt to pick it up.
James Anderson looked at it and walked right by the loose ball. Boykin then picked it up and ran it in for a touchdown.
Maybe the players should know to pick that ball up, but maybe it should be coached to the point where it's a habit? Under Smith, the Bears never let a ball lay on the ground—something one of his former players noted.
I run the gamut of emotions on that play, but guess what: that would NEVER happen to a Lovie Smith coached defense. #Bears— Hunter Hillenmeyer (@hthill) December 29, 2013
The Bears finished this season ranked 29th in yards allowed and 30th in scoring defense. It was the fourth time in six seasons that a defense called by Tucker has finished in the bottom 10 in scoring defense. The only years Tucker has coached a defense that finished in the top half of the league in scoring defense, he was under head coaches with defensive backgrounds.
For comparison's sake, Dom Capers has had that happen just five times in 20 seasons as a defensive coordinator and head coach, and he took over two expansion franchises.
The first warning sign may have been when Tucker arrived in Chicago and decided to stick with the Bears' previous scheme and terminology. I understand the "don't fix what isn't broken" philosophy, but a good coach should have confidence in what he does and how he does it.
The simple fact is Tucker isn't good at his job and never has been. The Bears will be best off moving on to someone who can build a defense from scratch. That is what they need right now, and there's no reason to think Tucker is capable of getting them back to respectability.