Marinelli visiting Chicago

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Former Detroit coach Rod Marinelli is visiting Chicago's practice facility Friday, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times. Although Marinelli's agent stressed that no deal has been finalized, it seems clear that he will join the Bears' coaching staff in some capacity this offseason.

As of Friday, the Bears had created only one opening on their staff, having fired defensive backs coach Steve Wilks. Defensive coordinator Bob Babich and defensive line coach Brick Haley, whose jobs Marinelli would seem most likely to take if he were hired, remain on the payroll.

But Marinelli has a long history with Bears coach Lovie Smith and Bears general manager Jerry Angelo from the trio's time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It's possible Marinelli could take Haley's job along with an assistant head coach's title.

Marinelli's agent, Frank Bauer, also represents Smith and Babich. Bauer told the Sun-Times that Marinelli is going to "take his time" deciding on his future plans. But there is a widespread belief in the NFL that Marinelli will eventually find his way to Chicago.

The Bears will need to handle this situation delicately. The fact that coaching candidates are visiting while Babich remains employed suggests the Bears are still weighing his future.

But bringing in Marinelli, while retaining Babich, would create a situation that historically is difficult to manage. Babich might technically remain in charge of the defense, but you would have to assume Marinelli would assume an unusually significant role for a non-coordinator. That creates chain-of-command issues that almost always lead to internal factioning.

To make it work, Marinelli, Babich and Smith would have to forge an exceptional relationship to present a united front and maintain a clear hierarchy. In the reality of today's NFL, that's a tough task.