Hoke, Phair will ease staff transition

Defensive backs coach Jon Hoke and defensive line coach Mike Phair, the only two coaches retained from Lovie Smith's staff, will help the Bears, and coordinator Mel Tucker, keep continuity on defense.

It was more than three weeks between the time former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith was fired and the time Mike Phair and Jon Hoke were offered opportunities to keep their jobs. Needless to say, it was a nerve-wracking period for both positional coaches.

"Obviously it's an anxious time when you don't know exactly what's going to go on," said Hoke, the club's defensive backs coach since 2009. "You just kind of take it day by day and you see what other opportunities may be out here because you're never sure what's going to happen here. When coach [Trestman] finally got hired and I was fortunate to be asked to stay, I took that opportunity. This organization has been great to me so I wanted to stay if I could."

Phair, who worked the past two years as assistant defensive line coach under former defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, was elevated to defensive line coach, although he said the time in limbo was tough on his family.

"Just a little stress but we got through it," Phair said. "The biggest thing for me was just how fortunate I felt to be able to stay here with the Chicago Bears and work for this organization. I felt very fortunate to be able to do that. I'm very happy."

Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said yesterday the base defense that has been successful in Chicago the past decade will not change under his reign. To aid keeping that continuity, Tucker retained two of the club's most respected defensive coaches.

"I think it will [help the continuity]," said Tucker. "I've known Coach Hoke for a long time. We've been great friends. And Mike Phair, I've known him for about five years now. They're great coaches, they're great guys, first and foremost. They're great people. Coach Trestman, that was important to him. They're very good at what they do, and they're going to help us. Right now, we've got to come together as a staff, first and foremost, and then that will spill over to the team."

With Hoke and Phair, the new members of the staff have a pair of resources that already have years of experience working with the personnel on the current roster. This will be crucial going forward as the new coaches begin to familiarize themselves with the players they'll soon be coaching.

"There are some things they are asking about and then there are some things they don't [ask]," said Phair. "I usually don't say a whole lot until they ask. It's just letting the guys evaluate everything and as we're going through it we're definitely giving input when we're asked."

Despite their professed desire to keep things status quo on defense, Hoke said the transition to an entirely new coaching staff has been challenging.

"Everything is different. The only thing that isn't different is I drive home to the same place every night but everything else is different," said Hoke. "Change is always different. The philosophies are different. The personalities are different. So it is change."

Both men agreed that the differing perspectives of the new staff have helped open their eyes to alternate ways in which they can approach their respective positions within the team.

"New is always exciting. Always," said Hoke. "It's great to hear other people's perspectives and thoughts and how they do things. It's always a learning process."

The goal going forward will be to help the Bears sustain the level of defensive success to which fans in Chicago have become accustomed. With Hoke and Phair on board, the defense has a good chance to continue playing like the Monsters of the Midway.

"We have a great group of players here," Hoke said. "It's fun to come to work everyday with that group of guys. We enjoy Chicago. If you're going to coach defensive football, why not here?"

Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.

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