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Don’t assume the 2019 Bears defense will decline with Chuck Pagano calling plays

The Chicago Bears have a new defensive coordinator in Chuck Pagano and the concern is that the D will drop off. But did you realize that Pagano took a good Ravens’ D and made it even better when he took over there?

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I started digging up some numbers to share on Twitter (follow me @wiltfongjr by the way!) about the improvements made by the 2011 Baltimore Ravens when they hired Chuck Pagano as defensive coordinator. My Twitter thread got so big I figured it best to write it up here at WCG too.

In 2010 the Baltimore Ravens were 12-4 (2nd in the AFC North) and they had a damn good defense that was coordinated by Greg Mattison. In 2011, Mattison left to coordinate the defense of the Michigan Wolverines, so the Ravens named Pagano as their new defensive play caller.

In 2011 the Ravens again went 12-4, but this time they won the AFC North.

The Bears just hired the 58-year old Pagano to run their defense and a lot of fans are assuming there’ll be a drop off in production form the group that has been coordinated by Vic Fangio the last four years.

While it’s certainly possible, don’t discount the possibility that it could get even better.

Pagano is an old school coach that has a reputation as a good teacher, which are a couple traits that Fangio has. The grizzled Pagano should be a good pairing with the 40-year old Matt Nagy just like Fangio was.

I’ll run down some of the ways the 2010 Ravens’ defense improved when they hired Pagano.

  • In 2010 the Ravens defense was ranked 6th in DVOA and in 2011 it improved to 1st.
  • Baltimore allowed 319 yards per game (10th in the NFL) in 2010, and in 2011 they allowed 289 yards per game (3rd).
  • In 2010 the Ravens’ defense allowed 16.9 points per game, and in 2011 they allowed 16.6 ppg, but if you take away the 3 return TDs and the 2 defensive TDs returned from their total, Pagano’s defense really only gave up 14.8 ppg.
  • In 2010, Baltimore was 15th in the NFL by allowing 38% of 3rd down conversions, but in 2011 they improved to 2nd at 32%.
  • The Ravens had 27 sacks (27th in the NFL) in 2010, but in 2011 they had 48 which was 3rd.
  • Baltimore allowed opposing quarterbacks to compile a passer rating of 76.4 in 2010 (5th best), but under Pagano in 2011 they allowed a league low 68.8.
  • In 2010 Terrell Suggs was a Pro Bowler for the Ravens, but in 2011 he was a Pro Bowler, he was named 1st team All Pro, and he was the Defensive Player of the Year.

The bottom line is Pagano took a very good Ravens defense and he helped them get even better. Sure, history has shown us plenty of defenses that took a step back when changing coordinators, but some have improved too.

Who’s to say the 2019 Bears can’t to that as well?