Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
If you're Kyle Orton or a coach on Chicago's defense, you might not want to start a home expansion project anytime soon.
That's the major news out of Chicago general manager Jerry Angelo's season-ending news conference Tuesday. Speaking to local reporters, Angelo said he hopes to add former Detroit coach Rod Marinelli in some capacity and admitted he isn't completely sold on Orton as the Bears' long-term answer at quarterback.
UPDATE (5:25 p.m. ET): The Bears began the bloodletting late Tuesday afternoon, firing defensive backs coach Steven Wilks. The team did not indicate if more changes are forthcoming.
Earlier in the day, here's what Angelo said about Marinelli, who was a long-time defensive line coach with Tampa Bay before taking the Lions job:
"I think the world of Rod Marinelli. I would love to have Rod Marinelli on our staff and I think Lovie [Smith] would say the same thing. He's a great football coach. Anytime you get a chance to get a great coach or great player, you're not going to sit here and say that you wouldn't consider him or you wouldn't work a way to do that. But again, that's premature, the answer to your question about Rod because I do know Rod. I think Rod is a very good coach and he'll be a great addition to any staff."
Smith didn't provide many clues earlier this week about his intentions for the Bears' defensive staff. But it can't be comforting for defensive coordinator Bob Babich or defensive line coach Brick Haley to hear Angelo speak so openly about Marinelli. There are a lot of ways Marinelli could come aboard -- as defensive coordinator, line coach, assistant head coach or even a special assistant -- but none would reflect positively on the Bears' opinion of Babich.
Meanwhile, Angelo said he "is not convinced 100 percent" that Orton should be the Bears' long-term starter. He said the Bears "have to" have some level of competition at the position next year. Here's a representative quote on the situation:
"I believe in Kyle but until Kyle puts a good year together we can't say for sure. I saw some really good things out of Kyle, particularly early on in the season, he didn't have the second half of the season that he did the first half of the season. Is that part of the growing pains that come along with the position? I can't answer that right now. We do believe that Kyle has some good things, really buy into Kyle the person. He's shown an exemplary work ethic, leadership to be named captain by your peers I think speaks volumes, particularly at that position, but really do feel good about Kyle. He's still a work in progress. We have time. We're going to take our time and we're just going to have to wait and see."
You don't have to read too far between the lines that 2009 will be Orton's make-or-break year as the Bears' starter. It's the final year of his contract with the team and it's unlikely he'll return in 2010 unless he makes significant improvements. While that's a fair assessment to make, it makes the next 12 months of Bears football all about Orton -- even though many would suggest the defense is a bigger concern.
That's why Babich's situation is so murky. Do the Bears really plan to keep him if they bring in Marinelli? That type of passive demotion almost always causes internal factions to develop. Marinelli is too close with Angelo and Smith for that to be a positive working environment. If the Bears want Marinelli on their defensive staff, they need to let Babich go.