The curious case of Mel Tucker: NFL Coach, Language Learner.



Mel Tucker is the new Defensive Coordinator for the Chicago Bears.

In theory, that’s a good gig.


Less so when you consider the Bears have had one of the best defenses in the NFL for the past several seasons under defensive-minded former coach Lovie Smith.


For Mel Tucker, there’s not much room to exceed expectations.


Last year – the year Lovie Smith was fired – the Bears D led the league in takeaways with 44 (24 interceptions and 20 fumble recoveries). The Bears defense also scored 9 touchdowns. Not bad considering the all-time NFL record is 10.


Lovie wasn’t fired because of the defense, obviously.

He was fired because his team missed the playoffs after winning 7 of the first 8 games.


How a coach can take Rex Grossman to the Super Bowl yet miss the playoffs after starting 7-1 is a great mystery of the football universe. At least the Chicago football universe….




The point is this: Mel Tucker inherited a successful defense. If the D continued to do well, Tucker wouldn’t get much credit. They were already very good.


However, if the Bears D faltered, Tucker would get the blame.

Tucker ruined a good thing.” the reporters would write.


During the Bears v. Steelers Sunday Night game, announcer Chris Collinsworth mentioned a curious aspect of Mel Tucker’s on-boarding process with the Bears.


Collinsworth noted Tucker opted to learn the language of the Bears defense – in essence, the Lovie language of defense. Instead of forcing 20+ players to learn his defensive language –  he’d learn theirs. Mel Tucker acknowledged the cohesiveness of the defensive group and made it easy for them to continue their excellence.


Hardly the my-way-or-the-highway mentality new coaches typically bring to training camp.


Given the sophistication of NFL defensive schemes, there was plenty of new language to learn.

Tucker opted to make it easier for his players to succeed.


How does this relate to you?


Next time someone on the jobsite utters, “We’re in America. Everyone should speak English.” referencing the drywallers or landscapers or roofers or concrete workers et al, consider the curious case of Mel Tucker.


Check the ego.

Consider learning their language.

Ultimately, their success is your success.

Make it easy for them.


To get you started, here are 5 easy ways to learn their language:


¿Qué tal?

(kay  TAHL)

How’s it goin? 


¿Hay problemas?

(i proh-BLAY-mahs)

There problems?








Tírelo porfa.

(TEE-ray-loh  POHR-fah)

Throw it away, please.



Excelente, gracias.

(ayk-say-LAYN-tay  GRAH-see-ahs)

Excellent, thanks.


Start doing this now and avoid the jobsite version of the 2-minute drill later.


(Go Bears.)



Bradley Hartmann is founder and El Presidente at Red Angle (, a training and consulting firm bridging the English-Spanish (and a bit of Polish…) language gap in the construction industry.    

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Categories: Construction Spanish, Jobsite Leadership

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