Friday, May 25, 2012

2011 Bears Position Reviews: The Coaching Staff

Last one! Then Start Kyle Orton goes on hiatus for a couple of weeks as I attend to the business of getting married and then heading on a honeymoon. Anyways, onto the coaching staff.

Lovie Smith, Head Coach

I still like Lovie. I sometimes wonder if this puts me in the minority. I choose to believe it doesn't, although it may put me at odds with a very vocal and virulent part of the Bears fanbase. I think Lovie's a solid coach from Monday-Saturday. I think his defensive philosophy, when he's got the pass rush and the linebackers to run it, is still a sound one, especially in an era where passing records are falling all over the place and a commitment to avoiding the big play at all costs makes a lot of sense (especially since the Lions in particular are extremely beatable so long as you avoid the Stafford-Megatron bomb). It's a fact that his players play very hard for him and I personally think he's coaxed more wins out of the Bears roster during his tenure than most guys would have. He admittedly has won when his stars are healthy and struggled when they weren't, but he's also had, from 1-53, a thinner depth chart than most of his division rivals. Even so, he generally patches together a winning season from teams that didn't always merit it. He gets too much shit for being a "player's coach," when really you need only look at the benching of Anthony Adams, the shakeup at safety, and his move to cut Chris Harris to see that that just isn't true.

I said during my midseason review this year that Lovie should go if this team doesn't make the playoffs, simply to avoid a Jeff Fisher like malaise. I'll make an exception considering he lost his starting QB, RB, and no.1 receiver all in a span of four weeks. This year Lovie's team was close to something big, and injuries took it away from him. He's still got at least one more year with the defense that he's ridden to this point, but now he has a GM who has a clear desire to build a winning offense that can both assist that defense this year and carry it over the inevitable reloading that is to come. Emery's loaded up the depth chart in a number of places Angelo used to ignore, and for the first time it seems Lovie may be able to go toe to toe with the heavyweights rather than simply finding a way to overachieve. For one more year at least, I still believe in Lovie Smith.

Mike Martz, Offensive Coordinator

I've already discussed why the Bears will be better off without Mike Martz, and it goes far beyond simply cutting down on the number of seven step drops. As for Martz's performance in 2011, well, I honestly don't think I can say anything more than I didn't say in October:
I give him credit for improving Jay Cutler's footwork and his mechanics. Jay's unfortunately had to rush some throws this year thanks to the shoddy protection, but I feel at this point that his worst days are behind him. If the team around him melts down we'll probably still see plenty of errant throws like we saw against New Orleans and Green Bay, but I think the days of streaking passes to guys like DeAngelo Hall are long gone. True to his reputation, he's probably made Jay Cutler a better player.

However, there's another side of the coin. It's a good thing that Mike has helped Jay improve his mechanics and pocket presence, because he's needed it while dodging the free blitzers that Martz's scheme doesn't even dream of accounting for.

What we've seen [during the five game winning streak] are gameplans indicating a changed individual. We've seen 25+ rushing attempts, 6, 7, and even 8 man protections, play action passes, bootlegs, and back shoulder throws. It's been nice, and it's allowed the two most important players, Forte and Cutler, to do what they do best.

The question, however, is what this means for Mike Martz's future. If even Mike Martz himself has given up on running "The Mike Martz Offense" with capital Ms, is he worth keeping around to run "the mike martz offense"? Can't someone who specializes in this West Coast-style offense be brought in who actually Wants to run it, not a guy who has been browbeaten into what I'm sure he considers a bastardization of his offense?
Martz  really did his best in the second half of both 2010 and last year to compromise. The simplest answer was that it was a better idea to simply find a coordinator who would run the same offense the Bears switched to at midseason the last two years from day one. That's what they did. I wish Mike well in retirement, even if it is clear from every comment Jay makes that he really, really fucking hates him.


Rod Marinelli, Defensive Coordinator

Let's face it, none of us really knows where Lovie Smith ends and where Rod Marinelli begins. Since we all gave up on the "Rod Marinelli could make ANYONE into a pro bowl defensive lineman" bit from 2009 a long time ago, there's really no way of saying whether the team would be any different if Lovie was still calling the defensive plays himself. Hell, the idea of calling plays in the Bears defensive is kind of amusing, considering that the scheme is very basic outside of the occasional zone blitz. Based off of results, though, Rod's pretty good at his job. Provided that job isn't head coach of the Detroit Lions.

Dave Toub, Special Teams Coordinator

I'm still waiting for that John Harbaugh-esque leap from special teams coordinator to head coach for Dave. There's no way to argue with his results. It'd be one thing to say he benefits from the attention given to Devin Hester, but he's made productive returners out of RW McQuarters, Danieal Manning, Rashied Davis, Johnny Knox, and Earl Bennett as well. He's watched as Robbie Gould became one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history. His units block more field goals than any other team in the NFL. At some point he's got to move on. Until then, I'm glad he is a Bear.