The January hiring carousel of the NFL marches on with position coaches. On Monday, the Bears announced that they have hired Ted Monachino to be their new outside linebackers coach.
Monachino, 52, was set to take over as Kansas State’s defensive coordinator for the 2019 season as a recent hire. He evidently could not pass up working with Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano again: a man he goes way back with.
Monachino previously served as a Pagano disciple when he was Colts defensive coordinator under the then head coach from 2016-2017. Monachino’s Indianapolis defense was nothing to write home about as it was a paltry 24th and 31st in DVOA in both seasons, respectively. Fortunately, he won’t be coordinating the defense in Chicago quite obviously.
Where the Bears’ new outside linebackers coach really made his hay was with the Ravens as their linebackers coach from 2010-2015. It is there where Monachino first connected with Pagano, who was the Ravens’ secondary coach from 2008-2010 before eventually being promoted to defensive coordinator in 2011.
Thanks in large part to Monachino’s individual guidance, players like edge rusher Terrell Suggs amassed 88 quarterback hits, 70 tackles for loss, and 49 sacks over the course of those six seasons (Suggs only featured in 63 games due to injury). A 2011 Defensive Player of the Year Award for Suggs was the cherry on top of a marvelous stint of play. Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, a Baltimore 2014 first-round pick and another Monachino prodigy, was also voted a Second-Team All-Pro and Pro Bowler as a rookie. The four-time Second-Team All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler in Mosley has since evolved into one of the NFL’s premier inside linebackers.
What this boils down to is some of Baltimore’s premier players outside of the customary Ray Lewis and Ed Reed shining both due to talent and fantastic coaching. Monachino gets to start anew in the NFL with Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd as his primary responsibility. It’s quite the situation to walk into and be welcomed back with into the pro ranks.
After a blockbuster trade that sent him to Chicago from the Raiders, Mack finished the 2018 season with 12.5 sacks: third most in a single season in Bears history, as both the top campaigns are held by Hall of Famer Richard Dent. Mack, inarguably one of this generation of football’s best defenders, has the challenge to take his game to an even higher level under Monachino ... if that’s possible. Whoever was going to be his position coach, Mack was probably going to be great anyway because he’s, well, a great player.
Where Monachino’s Bears hire gets far more interesting is with Floyd, especially when considering that Mack is an all-worldly talent that can excel with anyone’s mentorship.
The Bears’ 2016 first-round pick, Floyd has just 15.5 sacks over 38 starts in three seasons. While he came on extremely hot to close this past year, enough to earn his fifth-year option, you’d be hard-pressed to say Floyd has reached his potential as a defender when it comes to production. Injuries have curtailed a good deal of what Floyd’s been capable of: 2018 was the first year he played all 16 games, and that was with one healthy hand to start the year.
General manager Ryan Pace, head coach Matt Nagy, and Pagano are expecting big things out of Floyd moving forward if the Bears are going to continue to evolve as a championship contender. If Floyd can be the dominant force he was over the course of the second half of the 2018 season for an entire year alongside a game wrecker like Mack, this Bears defense will be in fantastic shape.
It’ll be on Monachino to make sure the Bears’ prized defensive piece in Mack continues to swallow offensive game plans whole, and to help one of their rising foundational blocks in Floyd finally reach his full potential.
Robert is the Editor-in-chief of The Blitz Network, the managing editor of Windy City Gridiron, and has a host of bylines for many fine publications. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.