Bears embracing Marinelli's methods
Yes, the same Rod Marinelli who coached the Detroit Lions to an 0-16 record that led to his dismissal as head coach. One team's loss is another team's gain. He doesn't coach linebackers, but if the Bears resurrect their identity as a nasty defense, Marinelli's work as a defensive line coach will be cited.
"Getting Rod Marinelli is one of the best things we've done since I've been here," Urlacher said. "If we get our defensive line back to where I know they can be, we get our defense to a championship level. And based on what I've seen from [Marinelli], I understand now what the fuss is all about. He's special as a D-line coach."
For all the buzz about Jay Cutler -- and the Bears are sincerely excited about their new franchise quarterback -- Marinelli may have just as much impact. There are just a handful of defensive line coaches who make a difference in a team's performance, and regardless of his record with the Lions, nobody in the NFL will dispute his excellence at his specialty.
During his 10-year run with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Marinelli's defensive line was responsible for the majority of the team's 328.5 sacks. The top 6 single-season sack totals in the Bucs' history occurred when Marinelli was coaching the defensive front. His unyielding passion and teaching skills won over supposedly big-ego linemen like Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice.
In fact, former Cowboys and Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson eventually quit coaching in part because, he said, modern-day players would no longer "run through the wall" for coaches. Sapp and Rice have said they would run through a wall for Marinelli.
General manager Jerry Angelo and head coach Lovie Smith both called Marinelli the Bears' biggest free-agent acquisition in the offseason. (Cutler was a trade.) They beat out a number of teams, most notably the Texans, who were offering Texas-sized money. It was Marinelli's relationship with Smith that broke any tie -- Smith had been a linebackers coach with the Bucs.
"I know the type of man Rod is and the impact he can have not just on the defensive line, but on every player on this team," Smith said.
But for Urlacher and Lance Briggs, the team's star linebackers, getting former first-round DT Tommie Harris back to a Pro Bowl level will help their performance. They expect Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye to be impact pass-rushers and hope Marinelli can resurrect the promise Mark Anderson once showed at defensive end. There's also last year's second-rounder, DT Marcus Harrison, and the promise of DT Israel Idonije for Marinelli to push to the next level.
"All I know," Urlacher said, "is I'm already a believer."
Here is some of what I saw and learned while visiting the Bears, the sixth stop on my training camp bus tour:
Bauer also represents one of the draft YouTube sensations: San Jose State defensive Jarron Gilbert, the 6-5 defensive tackle who was videotaped jumping out of a swimming pool and sticking a landing on a pool deck. Marinelli is trying to teach Gilbert how to play with leverage.
Chris Mortensen is a senior NFL analyst for ESPN.
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MORT GOES TO CAMP
ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen's 21-team bus tour of training camps is over. Mort's trip started in Arlington, Texas, where he met Dallas owner Jerry Jones at the team's new stadium and ended in Miami Gardens, Fla., for a visit with the Dolphins. Mort camp page