On Friday night, the Chicago Bears hired Chuck Pagano to be their new defensive coordinator replacing Vic Fangio who is now the head coach in Denver.
Pagano served as the Indianapolis head coach for six seasons before being relieved of his duties following the 2017 season. Although the team had the option of promoting from within to fill the vacancy, they followed a growing trend in the NFL.
Pagano’s hire as defensive coordinator is similar to other defensive coordinator hires as teams are choosing coaches who have prior head coaching experience. One example includes two NFC teams still in the playoffs in the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints. The Saints defensive coordinator is Dennis Allen who coached the Raiders before the position. In Los Angeles, Wade Phillips has taken back to back coordinator jobs after being a long-term NFL head coach.
The Bears hire of Pagano follows that trend as he has had experience as a coordinator before becoming a head coach in 2012. He served as the secondary’s coach and defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens from 2008 to 2011. The Ravens passing defense and overall defense ranked in the top five of the NFL in all four of Pagano’s seasons in Baltimore.
Teaming Pagano’s oversight with the Bears defensive starters is the most important aspect to the hire. In Baltimore, the talent level on defense was a historic one that featured hall of fame linebacker Ray Lewis and potential future Hall of Famers in Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata.
With the Bears, he get to work with one of the best group talented players as the defense will have four Pro-Bowlers and three All-Pros returning next season.
The current trend in the league when it comes to head coaches is to find the next innovative offensive mind. The last three seasons teams have hired offensive coaches including Matt Nagy, Sean McVay, Frank Reich, and Kliff Kingsbury. As the head coaching spot are filled with hew offensive minds, their defensive coordinator positions are being filled with former head coaches that come from a detailed defensive background.
Two head coaches that were fired this year have already been hired as defensive coordinators including Todd Bowles in Tampa Bay and Vance Joseph in Arizona.
Phillips in Los Angeles is the guideline to what the Bears want to achieve. Before becoming the Rams coordinator, he oversaw the Denver Broncos defense in 2015 that won the Super Bowl. Denver defense featured Pro-Bowl talents such as Von Miller, Danny Trevathan, Chris Harris, and Aquib Talib. The goal is to have an experienced mind that can develop schemes to stop opposing offenses and have the best personnel possible on the field to implement the plan.
Pagano will have arguably the best pass rusher in the NFL to lead his defense in 2019 with linebacker Khalil Mack. He will have a defensive line anchored by Akiem Hicks, Roquan Smith to be the consistent tackler against the running game, and both Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson to protect against the pass. The players will have a coach that has a similar level of experience in developing defensive game plans to that of Vic Fangio if not better.
Pace chose detailed experience over continuity when looking for his next defensive coordinator. He could have chosen former secondary’s coach Ed Donatell who has over 30 years of defensive coaching experience and has worked with the Bears defense since 2015 but chose a different route. He chose a coach who has been in charge of a full coaching staff which provides vital value.
Pagano’s longevity in the league has allowed him to make connections and will allow him to chose the best candidates for his defensive staff. Similar to what Nagy did last season when filling out his offensive staff, Pagano could find the same level of expertise.
Although losing Fangio is disappointing, the Bears organization acted swiftly to fill one of their most important openings on the coaching staff. The one thing the organization could not have afforded was a regression in 2019. Friday night, they hired a defensive mind who with the Ravens made them a consistent playoff team and eventual Super Bowl champion.