www.redeyechicago.com/news/ct-spt-1021-bears-essentials-pompei-chicago--20121021,0,1695795.column

redeyechicago.com

Bears defensive coordinator isn't one to crow

As Lions coach, Marinelli's defense derided but it's working splendidly with current personnel

Dan Pompei

On the NFL

4:08 PM CDT, October 20, 2012

Advertisement

When the Lions and their fans look at how dominating the Bears defense and its scheme has been, they have to think, "That should have been us."

In 2006, Matt Millen hired Rod Marinelli as head coach of the Lions.

Then in 2008, the Lions became the only team in NFL history to go 0-16, and Marinelli was finished as a head coach.

Marinelli was kicked around pretty good back then. They said his Cover-2 system couldn't work. They criticized him for having his son-in-law coordinate his defense. They didn't like his corny motivational techniques.

He is not getting kicked around these days. His Bears defense leads the NFL in the Aikman Ratings.

And Marinelli believes part of his success in 2012 was rooted in 2008.

"Everything you go through helps you in football," Marinelli said. "If you fail and you give up on something you believe in, that shows weakness. You really didn't believe in it in the first place. If you kowtow to criticism, that's weakness.

"If you really believe in how you do your business and you fail, you become more glued to it than ever before. Failure never made me doubt. I knew it was the right thing. That's me. Believe in what we do."

Marinelli has stayed married to his philosophies, for better or worse. But he has grown as a coach, he said.

He was not pleased to go 0-16, and he takes full responsibility for the failure. But he said he is happy to have had a chance to coach those Lions.

"It's really fun when you have an opportunity to affect a lot of people in bad times," he said. "Having good men around you, being able to affect people, being positive, enjoying what you are doing until trying circumstances — that's awesome."

It has to be more fun to coach these Bears. He wouldn't acknowledge it, but the Lions would not have been 0-16 if they had had Julius Peppers, Henry Melton, Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman.

His Lions defense in 2008 featured Dewayne White, Ernie Sims and Brian Kelly.

"When you struggle, you can bury yourself or have a forward outlook," he said. "My outlook always has been forward because I love football."

Marinelli laughs.

Given where he has been and where he is, he has earned the pleasure.

Numbers games: Check writing

The Bears didn't have any exorbitant free agent signings in the offseason, but they traded for a high-priced player in Brandon Marshall and signed 14 unrestricted free agents, including their own players.

So that meant the team had to dig deep. Or somewhat deep.

The Bears have spent $122.4 million on players so far in 2012, according to a league source. That ranks 16th in the NFL. Among the teams they have outspent are the Packers ($111 million) and Vikings ($104 million).

Even though the Bears didn't have to cut any unusually large signing bonus checks, their 2012 payroll still is fairly healthy because they have a number of players with big salaries this year.

Among them are Marshall ($9.1 million), Julius Peppers ($8.9 million), Jay Cutler ($7.7 million) and Brian Urlacher $7.5 million).

Front office chess: Flurry of moves

The Bears took a week off from playing, but they were far from inactive in the front office.

Since they last played, the Bears made eight transactions — adding two and subtracting two each from their practice squad and 53-man roster.

Among the missing are three players who have logged a lot of time at Halas Hall — offensive lineman Chris Williams and running backs Kahlil Bell and Harvey Unga.

But another player with a familiar face was among the newcomers. Zack Bowman, who signed with the Vikings in the offseason as a free agent, was brought back.

The Bears didn't want Bowman in March, but they wanted him last week for a couple of reasons.

The first is that cornerback Sherrick McManis could miss Monday night's game with a hip injury. Bowman is capable of replacing him on special teams as well as defense.

The other player Bowman can replace maybe better than anyone else on the roster is Charles Tillman. If the Bears were to lose the 6-foot-2 Tillman during the Lions game, now they have a 6-1 potential replacement who knows the system and has experience against Calvin Johnson.

That's why signing Bowman made more sense than signing a younger cornerback with more potential.

The acquisition of tight end Brody Eldridge also is interesting. Eldridge was signed to see if he can help the Bears' blocking. He played some center and guard at Oklahoma and is known as a finisher.

Matt Spaeth has not performed poorly as the primary blocking tight end. In fact, he performed very well in the Bears' last game. But now, he could have some competition.

dpompei@tribune.com

Twitter @danpompei