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updated: 1/13/2014 5:49 PM

Bears fire 2 assistants, but Tucker will be back

Bears decide to retain defensive coordinator, while firing two of his assistants

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Coordinator Mel Tucker will not lose his job after his defense turned in one of the worst performances in Bears history, but two of his position coaches will not be back.

The Bears have informed defensive line coach Mike Phair and linebackers coach Tim Tibesar that they will not return for the 2014 season. Phair was one of three holdovers retained from Lovie Smith's staff. He joined the team in 2011 as a defensive line coach.

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Tibesar was brought in by head coach Marc Trestman shortly after he was named to succeed Smith as the Bears' head coach in January 2013. He was a linebackers coach for two years and then defensive coordinator for one year (2011) with the Montreal Alouettes under Trestman. In 2012, Tibesar was Purdue's defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.

The remainder Trestman's staff will be back next season.

"We thank Mike and Tim for their effort and dedication," said Trestman, who has final say on his staff. "They are men of high character and integrity. These are not easy decisions, and we do not attribute our lack of success on defense to two individuals. We need to improve in all areas defensively and that will be a focal point for us this off-season."

Tucker's defense finished last in the NFL in yards per play, rushing yards and average gain per rushing play allowed. It was 30th in yards allowed per game and in points allowed, 27th in average gain allowed per pass, 26th in sacks and 25th in third-down efficiency."

Injuries to 2012 Pro Bowl tackle Henry Melton (season-ending torn ACL in Week 3), seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs and two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman were part of the reason for the defense's inability to stop opponents. Starting middle linebacker D.J. Williams suffered a season-ending chest injury in Week 6 and tackle Nate Collins (ACL) was lost for the season in Week 5.

But general manager Phil Emery and Trestman both said injuries is not an excuse for a defense that allowed 35.2 points per game in the final six games, four of which were losses that kept the Bears out of the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years.

Emery has already said the draft will be focused on defense, an area he is also expected to address in free agency, which begins March 11.

"The process starts with me as the head coach," Trestman said. "Our search for a defensive line and linebackers coach has begun, and we will be looking for the best candidates whose experience can bring the most out of our veteran and young players in both areas."

Tucker's future with the Bears had been uncertain since Emery's and Trestman's press conference Jan. 2, when both were noncommittal and declined to offer him a vote of confidence. Trestman said he was impressed with the defense through the first three games; but not so much late in the season.

"What I saw on the field in the first three games was not what I saw in the last three games," Trestman said. "But everything is on the table in terms of going through this process."

But Tucker will have at least one more season to improve a group that allowed 5.35 yards per rush, the worst in the NFL in more than 50 years.

"Our team evaluation remains ongoing," Trestman said. "We believe Mel is the right person to lead our defensive unit."

rlegere@dailyherald.com

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