No season-end review would be complete without a quick look back at how the most important parts of the Chicago Bears coaching staff weren’t looked at in detail after the season.
The Bears made some pretty significant changes on their coaching staff last season, including bringing in some new help on the offensive side of the ball while moving Rod Marinelli to defensive coordinator, effectively taking over the defensive play-calling from head coach Lovie Smith.
The changes that the team made last offseason seemed to work well as they ended up in the NFC Championship game which was a surprise for many prognosticators who had picked the Bears to finish third or fourth in the NFC North in 2010.
Chicago’s coaching staff can be considered mostly responsible for the rise that the team experienced last season and will be a big part of what they do in 2011.
Let’s take a quick look at the Bears coaching staff (just the major players) and see what their effect was on the team in 2010, how they need to improve or maintain things this offseason and what they need to do have success in 2011.
Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli
Marinelli had a pretty good defense in 2010 and got a lot more out of his unit than most people thought that he would. With the addition of defensive end Julius Peppers and the resurgence of linebacker Brian Urlacher, the defense was one of the best in the NFL and both, along with the rest of the Bear’s defense, did a lot to help the Bears win.
The year before, head coach Lovie Smith was calling the defensive plays and that wasn’t working too well for the Bears. He had his hands in both sides of the football and didn’t have a lot of time to spend on the overall picture with the team. Now that Marinelli is in charge of the defense, Smith can pay more attention to the team as a whole and the team, as we have seen, can be much better.
Look for Marinelli to continue to help lead the defense to play above average in 2011 and have it be one of the better units in the NFL once again.
Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz
When Martz came to Chicago, there was hardly anyone that felt that he would adapt his offense if it was discovered that the Bears didn’t have the players capable of running it to perfection. As it turned out, in the games that were played prior to the bye week, and despite the fact that the Bears came out ahead in four of those first seven games before the bye week, some changes needed to be made.
Those adjustments that Martz made in the second half of the season (whether they were prompted by the urgings of Lovie Smith or not remains to be seen and will always be up for debate) helped to turn this team around and get them to the NFC Championship game. As things permit, look for Martz to continue to install his system during the offseason and help get the offense to perform better in 2011.
Special Team’s Coordinator Dave Toub
There is no doubt that Toub is one of the best special teams coaches in the NFL (many consider him to be the best in the business).
He got the Bears special teams working well last season and helped Devin Hester return to his record-breaking form returning punts. The team did struggle covering punts and kickoffs at times so Toub will look to try to work some magic there and get that back under control. He may have to deal with a new punter in 2011 as well.
Offensive Line Coach Mike Tice
Tice just about got away from the Bears this offseason but they signed him to a contract extension (of one year) and he will remain with the team for a little while longer. Tice’s job had been criticized and praised all season long and he definitely had the offensive line heading in the right direction towards the end of the season.
But he will have his work cut out for him again next season if the Bears don’t get some help for that unit during the offseason. Tice will find it difficult to do anything with the line if the Bear’s upper management doesn’t give him to tools to work with.
Head coach Lovie Smith
Armed with a two-year extension, Smith will be back again in 2011 in an attempt to get the Bears over the hump and back to the Super Bowl.
No one expected Smith’s Bears to get as far as they did last year and no one expects them to get anywhere near as close as they did again next year. The Bears need some major upgrades on the offensive line and need depth along certain areas of the defense.
Thanks to an experienced coaching staff, Smith was able to overcome some of the shortcomings on the team and get through the end of the season well enough to make the playoffs.
After the bye week, the Bears, knowing that trying to use their offense as it was during the first half of the season wasn’t going to work, made changes. They ended up playing very well for the most part to help seal the NFC North crown and get into the playoffs.
Smith will only be as successful as their offseason moves allow them to be, and with free agency on hold (and with their ability to find players in free agency restricted by the final eight rule they will have problems in free agency acquiring players) things could get sticky next season. Their draft has to be a good one, too, in order to have a good year in 2011.
If the Bears fail to make the playoffs but still end up playing well, things should remain the same in Chicago, but if they have a horrible season there could be several changes in the coaching staff, including with Smith, despite his extension.
This offseason will be an interesting one with all the struggles between the owners and the players. So, in order to succeed the Bears need to have a good plan for the offseason. They claim that they do have a plan and with that we may put our faith in the Bears and think that they may come up with something good for next season.