Bears defenders better take notice: they are the final piece to the enigma that has become their defense since their loss to the Colts in Super Bowl XLI.
There have been many fingers pointed in the past two years as to the root of the problem of why the Bears’ defense has failed to crack the Top 10 — something they did twice in 2005 and 2006. Some fingers were pointed at the position coaches, who were mostly untested newbies given their first or second chances by Lovie Smith. Other fingers were pointed at Bob Babich, who had never been a coordinator before. Still others were pointed at the man in charge, Lovie, who chose to let Ron Rivera walk after the Super Bowl and replaced him with his good friend.
All three of those coaching instances were rectified this off-season as Lovie announced from Halas Hall today that he will take the lead role in calling the defense in 2009.
Don’t get too excited, those of you who were hoping Babich would be fired. The third-year defensive coordinator will retain his title and will also coach the linebackers, the job he held with the Bears prior to being promoted to coordinator. But Lovie made it clear that he’s going to take a more active role in the play-calling with the 2009 defense.
The Bears’ defensive coaches are all returning to their roots in some form. Lovie was a successful defensive coordinator with the Rams before he became Bears head coach and Babich did a nice job with the linebackers. Rod Marinelli, hired on Saturday, is one of the most respected defensive line coaches and he said he’ll be looking forward to concentrating on that aspect of the team.
As for the defensive backs opening, the Bears filled it today with the addition of Jon Hoke. Hoke spent the last seven seasons as the Houston Texans defensive backs coach and also spent one season with the Bears as a player in 1980, so it’s sort of a homecoming for him.
It cannot be disputed that the Bears upgraded their coaching staff on the defensive side of the ball. All that remains is what takes place on the field, and the focus now rests squarely on the players. If the Bears cannot reclaim defensive glory with the staff they have assembled, Jerry Angelo will know he needs to bring in new players to improve the defense.