LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Like predecessor Vic Fangio, new Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano will have close to full autonomy over the team's top-ranked defense. It will amount to the same arrangement Fangio enjoyed last year with head coach Matt Nagy.
“Chuck has been in this thing for a long time and has had a lot of success,” Nagy said on Monday. “We're going to start building our relationship day by day just like Vic and I did. From the professional side, he'll have to gain trust and I'll have to gain trust back and forth with each other. But that's the beauty of it and then you do that and you start giving ideas and you start feeling more comfortable in the environment together. But really it'll be nice and I feel like it'll be a pretty seamless transition.”
Nagy confirmed that secondary coach Ed Donatell also interviewed for the coordinator position. The Bears could have opted to replace Fangio in-house but instead hired Pagano, who worked as a consultant for the NFL last year after the Colts fired him as their head coach following the 2017 season.
“Ed has been a guy that has done a lot of good things for us, and just have a lot of respect for him,” Nagy said. “But we need to do whatever is best for this organization, the players, the coaches and then you take it all together, and you just weigh it out and you see how it fits. And so, you know, that was definitely something that we looked into and that's part of the process, for us, too. That was important.
“I think with Chuck, from the times that we talked, and just kind of seeing where he's at, No. 1, I always say this: It starts off with good people and good, high character, so that's No. 1. Then you get to the second part. That's the X's and O's part and everything that we talked about in the interview is really what I enjoy and what I think can be really good with this defense.
"He has an attacking-style mentality. He is aggressive. But yet, as we try to talk about all the time, being, you know, calculated, too. You've got to be smart with it. But he's been doing it for a long time. He's been in this league for a while. He's had a lot of success. He's been around some really, really good defenses, some really good players on defense, and you know, the more we talked, the more that I felt like, you know what, this is a really good, perfect fit for us and just really looking forward to it and excited for it.”
Pagano was the Colts' head coach for six seasons (2012-17), leading Indianapolis to two AFC South championships (2013, 2014) and three consecutive playoff appearances (2012-14). Pagano was fired with a 53-43 regular-season record and a 3-3 mark in the postseason.
Prior to accepting the Colts' head-coaching job, Pagano served as the Baltimore Ravens' defensive coordinator in 2011. Pagano coached the Ravens' secondary from 2008-10.
While in Baltimore, Pagano coached alongside Fangio for two seasons. For that reason, Nagy hinted that Chicago’s defensive terminology might not change much under Pagano.
A 16-year NFL coaching veteran, Pagano takes over arguably the league's best defense. The Bears ranked No. 1 in the NFL in takeaways (36), interceptions (27) and interceptions returned for touchdowns (five). They also allowed the fewest rushing touchdowns (five), posted the lowest passer rating allowed (72.9) and surrendered the fewest 20-plus-yard plays (46) in 2018.
Additionally, Chicago set a franchise record for fewest rushing yards allowed in a 16-game season.
“We had a lot of success last year as a defense and as a team,” Nagy said. “But as we talked about it to our guys when they left, this is going to be a new year so it's important that the players trust in us as coaches, and us an organization that we hire the right next people and that's what we're in the middle of doing right now.
“You know, so far between Chuck and myself just talking through everything, we have a solid plan on how we're going to go about doing it and I think everybody can feel really comfortable with what we're going to do.”