When the Chicago Bears look for a new defensive line and linebackers coach to fill their staff, they should only look at candidates who have a history of success in those fields.
On Sunday, the Bears announced that defensive coordinator Mel Tucker would remain, however, they fired defensive line coach Mike Phair and linebackers coach Tim Tibesar. When they look to replace those two, candidates who have shown they can succeed in those roles must be considered as front-runners.
There is a big difference between those who have experience and those who have success. Tucker has a lot of experience, but very little success. Tucker has been a coordinator for six seasons and never had a defense finish in the top 10 in scoring—though his defenses have been in the bottom 10 four times.
This much I know about #Bears search for DL and LB coaches: Word around NFL is Marc Trestman wants candidates to have strong NFL backgrounds— Brad Biggs (@BradBiggs) January 13, 2014
The one successful season he had in Jacksonville they finished 11th in scoring defense, but only played three games against teams who scored 25 or more points per game. In those three games, they gave up, on average, 34 points and 436 yards per game.
Whether or not Tucker can build a successful defense remains to be seen, but the Bears have to make sure they have position coaches with a history of success because they will have a lot of work to do.
Phair was a holdover from Lovie Smith's staff, where he also had the title of defensive line coach (although, that was also defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's specialty). How much Phair had to do with the success of the Bears defensive line in past years is unknown, but this move indicates Marinelli deserves the credit.
Tibesar worked with head coach Marc Trestman in Montreal, where he served as the defensive coordinator. The decision to fire him after one season was necessary, given the play of the Bears' linebackers and the lack of improvement from rookies Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene.
What the Bears end up with on their roster in 2014 is likely to be very different than who they had in 2013. As the Bears rebuild their defense, many of their new players will likely come from the draft and they have to have the right coaches to get the most out of them.
Julius Peppers has been the Bears' anchor along the defensive line since coming over from Carolina in 2010. He no longer appears capable of that role, but still has a huge contract. It seems likely that the Bears will release him, which could be the start of a completely rebuilt defensive line.
With former first-round pick Shea McClellin expected to move to linebacker, Stephen Paea and David Bass would be the only players with starting experience on Chicago's roster. Bass started just one game, while Paea has been a regular starter the last two seasons.
The only other players the Bears have under contract for next season are Cornelius Washington and Cheta Ozougwu—neither has shown they are capable of being starters or even regular rotational players.
The Bears seem likely to use multiple draft picks on the defensive line and could go after a big name free agent. It's entirely possible the Bears might begin the 2014 season with four new starters along the defensive line, depending on how the draft falls.
The Bears seem to have just as many questions at linebacker.
Veteran Lance Briggs is under contract for one more season, but that's about the only certainty they have.
They started the season with D.J. Williams in the middle and James Anderson outside. Williams suffered a season-ending pectoral injury in their third game and Anderson was a nightmare—for the Bears, not their opponent—against the run.
Bostic struggled more than a second-round pick should in his first season, and general manager Phil Emery suggested they could move him outside. If they were to do that, it would mean McClellin, Bostic and Green would all be battling for one starting spot. Regardless of who wins, they'll be raw and in need a lot of coaching to be adequate starters next season.
Former Bears great Mike Singletary would be a home run if they could get him to coach linebackers next season. Singletary has been the Minnesota Vikings' linebackers coach the past two seasons and has previously served in that role with the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.
Singletary was on Leslie Frazier's staff in Minnesota and seems unlikely to stay there since Frazier—his former Bears teammate—was fired. Frazier has been hired as the defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but Singletary isn't going there as they hired Hardy Nickerson as their linebackers coach.
Another coach the Bucs hired—Joe Cullen—could've been a great fit for Chicago's defensive line coach opening. Cullen worked with the Jaguars in Tucker's last season there and the Browns last season, but he has already found a new home.
ESPN's Michael C. Wright seems to think the Bears already have their next defensive line coach picked out, but he doesn't have the kind of experience they should be looking for. Michael Sinclair was a very good player for the Seahawks, but it's hard to see how the Bears could fire the defensive line coach and promote his assistant.
Good chance the Bears promote assistant DL coach Mike Sinclair to replace Phair.— Michael C. Wright (@mikecwright) January 12, 2014
Jim Washburn could be an interesting name—Washburn spent the past season with the Detroit Lions as their assistant defensive line/pass rush specialist coach. He was previously the defensive line coach for the Tennessee Titans and Philadelphia Eagles, although his exit from the Eagles has a dark cloud hanging over it.
If Trestman were to call Andy Reid, Washburn likely wouldn't get an interview with the Bears.
Another candidate for the Bears could be former Vikings defensive line coach Brendan Daly. Daly has spent the last two seasons with the Vikings and coached the St. Louis Rams before that. Under his watch, players such as Brian Robison, Everson Griffen and Chris Long have had career-best seasons.
Who the Bears ultimately hire will depend on the interview process. They need coaches who can fit their scheme and get along with the other coaches. That said, they shouldn't bother to interview those who don't have a track record of success.