Chicago Bears Coaching Changes & Scheme Changes
NFL Coaching Changes and Anticipated Scheme Changes
There is only one constant in the NFL, and that’s change. For the third consecutive year, 25% of the league’s teams will enter the season with different head coaches — and that doesn’t include Sean Payton, who returns to the head coaching ranks after a one-year suspension. Seven of the eight new head coaching hires are from the offensive side of the ball, emphasizing the NFL’s continued transition to an offensive-friendly environment. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars opted to hire from the defensive side of the ball (Gus Bradley).
As if that weren’t enough change, consider that 27 of the league’s 64 offensive and defensive coordinators were replaced. Including the head coaching changes, 37% of the NFL’s most important coaching positions are different from a season ago. Thinking about this another way, there are only 13 teams that return the same head coach, offensive and defensive coordinators:
The NFL is both a cyclical league and one prone to copy cats. When something works for a team, you can be sure other teams will look to duplicate that success; and it doesn’t always work. Not every iteration of the West Coast offense enjoyed the success of the Bill Walsh 49ers. Not every version of Dick LeBeau’s zone-blitz stopped opposing quarterbacks. With that in mind, today’s trends including the zone-read, spread attacks and no huddle approaches will have a mix of successes and failures. That’s the very nature of the league as success only comes with the confluence of great coaching, great players and health.
We will detail each team’s major coaching changes and the schematic implications of those hires. We will update and post our views throughout the preseason as more information is made available in training camp and the preseason.
Today we take a look at the Chicago Bears
• Head Coach: Marc Trestman (replaces Lovie Smith)
• Offensive Coordinator: Aaron Kromer (replaces Mike Tice)
• Defensive Coordinator: Mel Tucker (replaces Rod Marinelli)
What to expect on offense:
Marc Trestman is one of the more interesting hires of the offseason, having spent the last five seasons in Canada coaching the Montreal Alouettes. In spite of his ‘Northern Exposure’, Trestman is hardly an NFL neophyte. He spent nearly 20 years coaching in the NFL including 8 seasons as an offensive coordinator. Widely regarded as a quarterback guru, Trestman will handle play-calling duties while new offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer will focus on in-week planning and rebuilding an offensive line that left QB Jay Cutler dizzy with pressure.
Trestman has a reputation for being meticulous to a fault, as his exacting knowledge requires a similar commitment to detail from his players, particularly the quarterback. The Bears will only succeed if Jay Cutler truly commits to Trestman’s intense approach to game preparation. Schematically Trestman’s system most closely resembles the West Coast offense, and will emphasize accuracy, quick reads and a high completion rate above all else. Paramount to the plan will be keeping Cutler better protected, and that will come in several ways. One, OC Aaron Kromer is bringing the ‘inside out’ blocking approach that works so well in New Orleans. Essentially the onus will be on protecting the interior of the offensive line and relying on the receivers, tight ends and running backs to protect the edges in blitz situations. Two, Jay Cutler will be asked to use more 3- and 5-step drops and get rid of the ball quickly. Three, Cutler will have defined outlet receivers (usually the running backs) to check down if his progressions don’t yield downfield results. That bodes well for Matt Forte, particularly in PPR leagues.
What to expect on defense:
As much as the Bears are going to gain offensively from the Trestman hiring, they risk losing with the firing of Lovie Smith and his defensive assistants. Smith was a master of the Tampa Cover-2 scheme, and the Bears defense was championship caliber for most of Smith’s coaching tenure. Chicago didn’t come up empty though, hiring Mel Tucker as the new defensive coordinator. While Tucker’s defenses haven’t always been statistically impressive, he’s widely respected around the league and someone that other coaches believe gets the most out of his personnel.
Schematically Tucker has opted to maintain the existing system, believing that it’s effective and will allow the players to execute immediately. Initially, expect the same one-gap, 4-3 defensive front with primarily a Cover-2 in the defensive backfield. Over time, Tucker may incorporate other wrinkles including occasional 3-4 fronts, but that will only come as Tucker and his assistants get a better handle on the individual strengths and weaknesses of the players on the roster.
Next Up: The Cleveland Browns
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