The Chicago Bears hired Sean Desai way back in 2013 to work as a defensive quality control coach under then coordinator Mel Tucker and head coach Marc Trestman. When the Trestman era ended Desai was just one of three assistants that were retained by new head coach John Fox, and that gave him an opportunity to work with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
Desai was able to sit under the learning tree of Fangio for four seasons before the Denver Broncos hired Fangio away to be their head coach, and Vic thought so much of Deasi that he wanted to bring him to Denver with him. But the Bears, knowing the potential that Desai possessed, blocked the move and promoted him to their safeties coach.
The promotion allowed him to work with new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano for a couple years, and when Pagano retired the Bears turned to their longest tenured assistant coach to be their new defensive coordinator.
“We are very fortunate and excited to promote from within and announce Sean Desai has been named defensive coordinator for our football team,” head coach Matt Nagy said in a statement last January. “He is a person of high football intelligence, extremely detail-oriented, has a very strong work ethic and I cannot think of someone more deserving to lead our defense.”
Nagy added that, “Sean is a family man of high character and the respect he has within our building from coaches, players and staff is unparalleled.”
The praise for Desai was near unanimous from anyone that had worked with him, but he’ll ultimately be judged if he can get the Bears’ defense back to the elite level it was playing at under Fangio.
Chicago isn’t fielding the same players on defense that they did back in 2018 — Fangio’s last year with the Bears — when they finished as the top ranked DVOA unit in the NFL, but he’ll still have stars like Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Eddie Jackson, and Roquan Smith running around for him.
Desai plans to incorporate many of the philosophies he learned under Fangio, but he made it clear that this will be his defense, and while he didn’t get into the schematic specifics he did describe how he wants his guys to play.
“It’s going to be something that’s palpable, whether you’re watching the tape, whether you’re watching at home or whether you’re in the stadium, and a thing that you can feel,” Desai said at his February press conference. “Our physicalness, you can feel toughness, you can feel discipline, you can feel a sense of swarming to the ball and finishing.”
As fans we can only hope that Desai has the same type of career arc like Brandon Staley, the current head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, who used his time under Fangio to become a very successful first time defensive play caller with the Rams. Staley took a middle of the pack ranked Ram defense and made them the best in the NFL.
Of all the storylines surrounding the Bears this year, how Desai calls the defense is the one I’m most looking forward to following. If he can successfully blend in the disguised zone coverages the Fangio scheme is known for, and use timely blitzes like Vic did during his time in Chicago, then he may get this unit back into the top five.