How Mike Pettine Could Best Benefit Bears

The addition from north of the border to the Bears coaching staff on Wednesday has the potential to help solve some perplexing problems they've had when facing Aaron Rodgers and Co.
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When a team brings in a senior assistant or advisor on one side of the football, the possibility for overstepping boundaries always exists.

No one would have brought in a senior advisor for Buddy Ryan. The guy might have wound up with a broke jaw at his first suggestion.

However, it has its benefits. 

The addition by the Bears of former Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine looks like it would have a positive effect for new defensive coordinator Brandon Desai, although you do have to wonder if the Desai promotion would have even occurred if Pettine had been fired a few weeks earlier.

After all, Bears coach Matt Nagy practically bowed in homage to Pettine whenever he spoke of his Green Bay defenses and for good reason—the Bears had problems moving the ball against Green Bay once the Packers obtained a few better edge rushers.

The Bears averaged only 14.25 points for their last four games against Pettine's defenses.

"I think I’ve made it clear the last couple of years the amount of respect I have for coach Pettine and the way he teaches," Nagy said prior to facing the Packers in the regular-season finale. "He’s been doing it for a long time and his philosophy on defense, just knowing that and seeing that, I just think schematically he really does a good job at disguising different things and showing different fronts and stunts. 

"He’s coverages on the back end. He’s very comfortable, obviously, in dime personnel. I don’t think he really cares. He leads the league in that. But they’re good at it. He trusts in his players. That’s the philosophical way of him, to make you run the football and not give up big plays, and it works. And that's what he's going to do. I think schematically he does a lot of really great stuff."

It's nothing against Desai's abilities, which come highly touted on all sides despite his lack of experience. But going through the NFL wars as an actual decision maker still counts a great deal more than being someone's favorite underling.

With this Bears coaching staff, there seems to be less concern about trampling on someone else's feet in decision making because Nagy stresses collaboration so much and seeks out other coaches' opinions. 

So Pettine's thoughts would be valued by Desai regardless of any potential personal fears over being undercut.

There are several ways Pettine can really benefit the Bears as an addition who escaped from behind the Cheese Curtain to the north.

1. Insight into Packers Defensive Players

This isn't to suggest Matt Nagy, the offensive coaching and tackles Charles Leno Jr., Bobby Massie and Germain Ifedi are clueless, but since the Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith arrived on the scene in Green Bay, the Bears offense stopped working. Those two edge rushers have combined for 4 1/2 sacks, 22 tackles, three tackles for loss, two pass deflections, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, a touchdown return and 13 hits on Bears quarterbacks for four games.

If they had the same production against the rest of the league, they'd both be perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidates.

Perhaps Pettine can offer insight into how to offset this impact, short of replacing both tackles. And that might happen anyway.

2. Insight into Aaron Rodgers

The defensive coordinator who faces Rodgers on a daily basis in training camps and has been around the quarterback for three years under two head coaches is naturally going to have noticed some weaknesses in the armor as yet undetected by the Bears. The Bears had some success in 2018 under Vic Fangio against Rodgers but it's faded away as their pass rush fell off the last two years. Rodgers always seems to have the jump on what they're doing on defense and maybe Pettine can help Desai solve this.

3. The Disguiser

Pettine has been known for disguising coverages well, and the hallmark of Fangio's defenses was an ability to fool quarterbacks into thinking they were facing one coverage when it was actually another. Combine what Desai learned about this under Fangio with what Pettine already had accomplished and the Bears defense could get back to forcing quarterbacks to hold the ball too long as they figured out what they were seeing, leading to more sacks and/or turnovers.

4. Cutting Edge

The Bears would be more of a cutting-edge defense with someone bringing in new ideas.

In the last two seasons, more and more defensive coaches have gone to six defensive backs as a away to combat the constant barrage of efficient passing games. Pettine was known for using five- or six-defensive backs. At times it was the Packers' demise because it left them vulnerable to running games, but the Bears' combination of Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman with inside linebackers Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan had helped the team finish first against the run in 2018. With all of them reassembled and healthy it could give the Bears the force up front against the run to allow them to play more of the cutting-edge looks with five or six defensive backs as Pettine was known for doing. Chuck Pagano tried doing this some last year and in 2019 but last year's problems stopping the run prevented the Bears from applying these changes.

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