Bears fans know Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli well. Smith served as head coach of the Bears from 2004-2012, amassing a record of 81-63 in the regular season over that span. He was the last coach to take the Bears to the Super Bowl (in 2006), and many fans and former players were upset when Smith was fired after the team didn’t make the playoffs with a 10-6 record in 2012. After five years at Illinois, Smith spent the 2021 season as associate head coach/defensive coordinator for the Houston Texans, who are currently in the process of hiring a new head coach.
Marinelli spent four seasons with the Bears as defensive line coach (2009) and defensive coordinator (2010-12), working under Smith the entire time. He spent the last two seasons with the Las Vegas Raiders as a defensive line coach/interim defensive coordinator. The Raiders are also hiring a new regime, so neither Smith’s nor Marinelli’s jobs are secure heading into next season.
With both Smith and Marinelli potentially available and the Bears currently shopping for a new defensive coordinator, some former disciples of the two coaches are pushing for their return(s).
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Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman Push for Return of Smith & Marinelli
It didn’t take long after Eberflus was hired for ex-Bears to start offering Smith and Marinelli as options for Chicago’s next defensive coordinator.
Former Bears All-Pro linebacker Lance Briggs took to Twitter to endorse his former head coach and defensive coordinator for the role of the next Bears DC:
Ex-Bears cornerback Charles Tillman also made a push for Marinelli’s return:
Jerry Azumah, who played corner for Chicago from 1999-2005, tweeted that Eberflus’ defense reminded him of the way Smith did things:
Eberflus, who is a defensive-minded coach, worked with Marinelli in Dallas from 2013-2017, so there’s a connection there. Will it be enough for Marinelli to return to Chicago? The ex-Bears DC certainly seems open to working with Eberflus again.
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Marinelli Seems Like a Strong Candidate for Defensive Coordinator
Of the two former Bears coaches, Marinelli seems like the most likely to return. Eberflus’ 4-3 base isn’t strictly Cover 2, but that’s the central concept he uses. Smith is also well-known for running a Cover 2 scheme, but Eberflus also mixes in some blitz packages with a tad of Cover 3. Smith would make sense, but Marinelli makes even more sense considering his history with Eberflus.
“He’s such a bright guy,” Marinelli said about Eberflus, via the Bears’ official website. “I wanted to go back to the original Tampa system, and we just kind of got our heads together. He just really took off and grew. You’ve got to be demanding on players in the right way and he did a terrific job in that area. The whole system’s about details and execution and teaching, and he really took off and flourished.”
Would Marinelli be open to coaching under Eberflus in the Windy City? He certainly seems open to the idea.
“I’m still with the Raiders right now, but I’ll say this, it was my favorite place I’ve ever coached,” Marinelli said about Chicago on GN Sports podcast Jan. 28.
ESPN insider Jeremy Fowler reported that former Indianapolis Colts linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi will be heading to Chicago to join Eberflus, but there will certainly be other potential DC contenders to come. We’ll know soon enough whether Marinelli or Smith will be among them.