Lovie Smith got the man he really wanted to join his defense on Saturday when Rod Marinelli agreed to join his coaching staff, and now he's got control of his defense back.
Smith will handle play-calling duties this coming season with Bob Babich remaining the defensive coordinator while returning to his roots as the linebackers coach. The staff was filled out Tuesday morning with the addition of Jon Hoke as secondary coach.
"I have been involved a little bit,'' Smith said this afternoon on a teleconference. "My involvement will be a lot more now. For some reason there are quite a few offensive coaches that [call plays]. There are not a lot of defensive guys. I think this is what will help us get back to where we need to be.''
Smith took a more hands-on approach this past season when he coached nickel back Danieal Manning exclusively for the second half of the season, a responsibility that previously belonged to Babich. In that experience, Smith found he had more time to be involved and will do just that by running the defensive show on Sundays.
"I think all head coaches would tell you that they miss being able to have a position and some of the hands-on coaching you get a chance to do by having your own position,'' Smith said. "And of course some of the play-calling, you miss that. That's what you've done all your life.
"Every year I've missed some of that. But it's not far away. It's not like I haven't been involved in the play-calling. I don't want to say that at all. I have been. This past year in some of our worst games that we played, I was involved in that, and I realize that, and together we're going to all make it right."
Smith refused to accept the notion that in firing three position coaches on defense and retaining Babich he was identifying scapegoats and protecting his longtime friend. He pointed out that things have changed for Babich, too, and lauded his work with linebackers before he became a coordinator in 2007.
"Bob is a team player,'' Smith said. "We didn't meet our expectations this past year and in the offseason you look to try to make improvements the best you can."
The coaching staff is expected to gather for the first time as a unit before the week is over before heading to the Senior Bowl next week. The Bears will need to evaluate their own personnel as well as prospects in the draft and free agency, and that's where the next change is coming.
"We have tweaked our coaching staff a little bit,'' Smith said. ``And looking forward to tweaking the personnel a little bit also.
"As we go into championship weekend, a nine-win team is going to the Super Bowl. That is why I say we're not far away. Once you get in the playoffs, anything can happen. But for us the first step in the offseason, of course we evaluate everything we did last year, and what we're going to do for the coming season."