Bears' Coaching Staff Follows Lovie's Lead

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Bears' Coaching Staff Follows Lovie's Lead
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The Chicago Bears have a rich history of great running backs, staunch defense, and playing games close. That's why the hiring of head coach Lovie Smith seemed to fit right in with the Bears' normal mode of operation.

Smith was the defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams prior to becoming head coach in Chicago.

Before that, he was a prodigy of former Colts head coach Tony Dungy when Dungy was head coach in Tampa, where he studied under defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who implemented a defensive system called the Tampa 2.

The Tampa 2 system relies heavily on front four line pressure and having a versatile free safety who can play like a linebacker. Smith brought these things with him to Chicago, and has slowly built his coaching staff to fit this image.

At first, Smith hired former Kansas City quarterbacks coach Terry Shea to run his style of offense in Chicago. The problem was Thomas Jones, the Bears running back at the time, was not a power back like Larry Johnson. 

This meant Shea's offense was too slow-paced for a team with speed.

After the Shea experiment failed, Smith hired the man currently in charge of the offense, Ron Turner. This was Turner's second go around with the Bears, as he worked previously for former coach Dave Wannstedt.

Turner was brought in primarily because of the 1995 season, which was Chicago's most successful offensive season in nearly 10 years. His offense consists of heavy running, utilizing the tight end to help the QB get in rhythm. 

Once in rhythm, Turner opens up the playbook and starts letting his QB throw the ball downfield.

Like Smith, Turner believes in cautious aggression. He likes the defense to show their hand, then play to the defense's weaknesses. This system has worked for him in the past, and with new QB Jay Cutler, Turner will be able to open his playbook up much sooner.

On the defensive side of the ball, Smith brought Ron Rivera on as his coordinator when he came to Chicago. Rivera is a pupil of both Jim Johnson in Philadelphia and Buddy Ryan from his playing days with the 46 defense in Chicago. 

Rivera's style of defense was to blitz heavily and have that pressure create turnovers, but he and Smith never saw eye to eye on this. 

Smith wants pressure from the defensive line and for his linebackers to play back and use oncoming ball carriers to create turnovers. He also did not want to have plays where the tight ends would get open too easily over the middle due to linebacker blitzes.

Thus, despite making the Super Bowl, Smith fired Rivera and promoted linebackers coach Bob Babich to defensive coordinator.

Babich believed in blitzes just like Rivera. However, he was doing it to hide deficiencies in his line's lack of pass rush. Also, his calls rarely disguised where the blitzes were coming from, as usually the linebackers would line up right on the line.

Babich remains the coordinator in name, but Smith will make all the defensive calls this season.

To help with poor line play, Smith hired former Buccaneers defensive line coach and Lions head coach Rod Marinelli.

Marinelli just went through one of the worst NFL seasons ever, as his Lions went 0-16.  However, despite his misgivings as a head coach, he is widely respected as a top D-line coach. 

Marinelli believes in a lot of stunts with his tackles, which helps free up gaps for his ends to get inside pressure on the QB.

When the offense catches on to this scheme, he reverses it, having the tackles come outside after the ends take out the inside linemen. By doing this, the tackles are free to rush the passer with an open lane.

Marinelli, Babich, Turner, and Smith all follow the same philosophy of taking what the opposition gives you and playing games close so there's always a chance for victory at the end. 

This philosophy has led Smith to a winning record in Chicago, and with a new QB and the coaches he wants all in place, Smith's hope for another Super Bowl berth may be renewed.

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