As they begin preparing for the 2019 season, the Bears are confident that their transition at defensive coordinator from Vic Fangio to Chuck Pagano will be a smooth one.
Fangio left the Bears in January after four seasons to become Broncos head coach. In 2018, he coordinated a dominant defense that led the NFL in points per game (17.7), takeaways (36), interceptions (27), interception return touchdowns (5), opponent passer rating (72.9) and rushing yards per game (80.0).
Pagano recently spent six seasons as Colts head coach from 2012-17, compiling a record of 53-43 in the regular season and 3-3 in the playoffs. He led Indianapolis to three straight playoff appearances from 2012-14, including AFC South Division titles in 2013 and 2014, and an appearance in the 2014 AFC Championship Game.
Pagano boasts 16 years of NFL coaching experience, Prior to joining the Colts, he spent four seasons with the Ravens, serving as defensive backs coach from 2008-10 and defensive coordinator in 2011.
“Chuck has got tons of experience, and we had that with Vic,” said coach Matt Nagy. “What Vic did with this defense, who knows if you’ll see that again. Hopefully you will [this] year with us. But I give a lot of credit to Vic. He’s been in it for a long time and he also built that relationship with those players over time.
“Chuck, he’s going to come in now and, No. 1, what you’re going to see is a people guy. He’s a guy that the players are going to absolutely love. And they’re going to respect him because of his knowledge and the players he’s been around and how he does things. He has an aggressive mentality, which you know I like. But you’ve got to be smart with it, and that’s going to be fun.”
Pagano has said that he will mesh some of his philosophies with what the defense did under Fangio and will place more of an onus to adapt on himself and the Bears’ other new defensive coaches than on the players.
“Just like we were starting out in training camp and OTAs last year with some newer terminology [when the new offense was being installed], the defense will be doing that,” Nagy said. “But Chuck has a great balance with his staff of making sure that it’s not too much to where our guys can play fast.”
Fangio told reporters at the NFL Combine that he thinks a Bears defense that currently has 10 of 11 starters under contract will continue to excel without him.
“The players haven’t changed, and the players are the most important thing,” Fangio said. “Chuck will do fine with those guys. There will be some carryover, as there is from a lot of systems. I don’t think they’ll have [many] problems.”
Fangio is ecstatic about landing his first head-coaching job after spending 32 seasons as an NFL assistant. But he’ll miss the Bears players he formed a close bond with.
“You don’t always have the synergy or the camaraderie coach-to-player as the group that we had there,” Fangio said. “You can’t produce that—it just happens over time—and we had that, and it was hard to leave.”