As the Chicago Bears search for a new defensive coordinator continues, it appears that the choices have begun to narrow. On Thursday night, the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs reported that the team interviewed secondary’s coach Ed Donatell on Thursday and that they are interested in former Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano.
Although Pagano’s tenure in Indianapolis ended poorly, his resume of sustained success makes him a viable replacement for Vic Fangio.
Pagano served as the head coach of the Colts from 2012 to 2017. In his six seasons as head coach, he led his team to playoffs in his first three seasons including the AFC Championship in 2014.
Although most of the team’s success during that time was attributed to quarterback Andrew Luck and the offense, the Colts defense was very respectable given their circumstances. In 2013, the defense finished as the ninth-ranked defense in the league and held their opponents to 17 or fewer points in seven games.
Pagano’s defenses struggled as his Colts tenure went on, but that was more so do to personnel rather than scheme. His best defense finished last in 2017, but that was due to a lack of talent and injuries throughout the season.
In his first three seasons as Colts coach, the defense featured defensive end Robert Mathis, linebacker Jerrell Freeman, and cornerback Vontae Davis. Both Mathis and Davis were named to the Pro-Bowl twice during their time with Pagano.
Before being hired as the Colts coach in 2012, He served a defensive coach and coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens from 2008 to 2011. From 2008 to 2010, Pagano was the team’s secondary coach in which the secondary averaged 15 interceptions during that time.
In his four seasons with the Ravens, the defense ranked in the top 10 in pass defense in three of those seasons. The defense was a top-five defense in all four of his seasons with Baltimore.
During the 2011 season, Pagano was promoted to defensive coordinator and the Ravens reached the AFC Championship game coming to a field goal away from forcing overtime.
The defense registered 48 sacks and 15 interceptions on the season. Linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, safety Ed Reed, and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata were all named to the Pro-Bowl. Ngata and Reed were named All-Pros for the season.
The experience with the personnel and defensive scheme Pagano worked with while in Baltimore should be the most important aspect for the Bears. Pagano worked with three players who were All-Pros and future Hall of Famers also when in Baltimore.
If hired to replace Fangio, he would work with a defense that is expected half all of its starters back in 2019 including four Pro-Bowlers and three All-Pro starters. The defensive scheme is important as the Bears employ a base 3-4 defense and that was the defense Baltimore ran when Pagano was the coordinator.
Having Pro-Bowlers at all three levels of the defense including Akiem Hicks, Khalil Mack, and Kyle Fuller would give him a talent level similar to what he had with the Ravens.
General manager Ryan Pace’s goal is to find an experienced defensive mind who’s hire allows the defense to retain the most continuity as possible. Hiring Donatell would ensure the most continuity, but if he isn’t hired, Pagano could be the next best candidate given his experience.
Paired with the talented Bears defense, he could possibly yield the same results that ultimately led to the Ravens being a perennial Super Bowl contender.