Almost a week out from their elimination from the 2019 NFL postseason, the Bears have been on the prowl for a new defensive coordinator. With respected mentor Vic Fangio now the new Broncos head coach after helping Chicago become pro football’s best defense, head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace have the challenge of maintaining that stellar play. The next man on their to-do list is former Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, who officially interviewed for the Bears’ open defensive coordinator position on Friday, according to the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs.
Pagano was last seen in the NFL as a head coach in 2017 as the Colts stumbled to a 4-12 record. Viewing Pagano as a poor hire due to the end, or even for much of the duration of his tenure with the Colts, would be disingenuous as to describing the defensive mind he is.
After recovering from cancer treatments in 2012, when Pagano took back over full-time in 2013 the Colts defense improved from 25th to 15th in defensive DVOA. The following year, Indianapolis improved to 12th overall: the peak of Pagano’s coaching stint with the Colts. When considering the fact that former general manager Ryan Grigson was less than generous in stacking the Colts’ cupboard with defensive talent, that’s something to be commended on the part of Pagano.
Pagano’s best year when leading a defense came as the Ravens’ defensive coordinator in 2011, where Baltimore had the NFL’s best defense in DVOA. A season that acted as a resume springboard for Pagano to eventually become the Colts’ head coach. Terrell Suggs, in a similar role that Khalil Mack plays, ended up winning Defensive Player of the Year. The Ravens themselves went 12-4, won the AFC North, and managed to find their way to the 2012 AFC Championship Game: their season ironically ending on a missed field goal. Where Suggs, Ray Lewis, and Ed Reed were players that responded well to Pagano’s coaching, Mack, Roquan Smith, and Eddie Jackson in similar roles can do just the same.
If the Bears were to hire Pagano as their new defensive coordinator, the former head coach would assuredly allow Matt Nagy to focus on game-planning for the offense: a crucial aspect of this hiring process. Pagano’s aggressive 3-4 scheme would also be a relatively seamless translation for the NFL’s best defense, talent still trumping all.
For the best defensive coordinator opening in football, it’s Pagano’s presence that could help keep the Bears’ premier dominance going. Life does, and must, go on without Fangio. With Pagano, it can.
Robert is the Editor-in-chief of The Blitz Network, managing editor of Windy City Gridiron, and writes for a host of fine publications. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.