Amid speculation that he’ll be fired at the end of the season and that he might be a candidate for the vacant head-coaching position at Wisconsin, Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker didn’t flinch.
“I’m focused on New Orleans and the rest of the season,” Tucker said Thursday.
These are tough times for Tucker — whether he knows it or not. The Bears are a disappointing 5-8, and their defense, which is tied for 28th in yards allowed and is 32nd and last in points allowed, makes him the prime candidate for culpability.
But the speculation about his job security hasn’t affected his mood or his outlook. He never bristled when asked repeatedly about the future. But he never wavered in his response, either.
“With all due respect, I’m really just focusing on New Orleans right now,” Tucker said when asked about his interest in the Wisconsin job when he was contacted by the school about the opening two years ago. “That’s a legitimate, valid question. But at this point, it’s about preparing from a coaching standpoint, from a player standpoint, for the New Orleans game. We’re not thinking about anything else at all.”
Tucker has had seven jobs in 18 seasons as a football coach.
“It’s really nothing new,” he said when asked about the challenge of an unknown future. “I’ve been doing this 18 years — eight in college and 10 in the NFL. It’s about staying focused [on] the task at hand. That’s being a professional and focusing on what you can do and what you can control.”
Even his family is unaffected by the speculation, he said.
“My wife has been with me since before I got into coaching,” Tucker said. “My kids are good kids, and they’re tough kids — they get straight A’s and all that. They’re doing fine.”
Tucker refused to accept any excuses for the poor performance of the defense — primarily injuries and talent.
“I like this group in terms of their focus and their attention in meetings and on the practice field,” Tucker said. “We have to deal in the moment, which is New Orleans. Our worry is about the guys we have going into this game and our preparation. That’s really all that matters.
“We feel good about this group [of players], whether they’re rookies or not . . . to get the job done. That’s what we’re talking about.”