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Pagano retires from coaching after 36 seasons


Chuck Pagano is retiring after two seasons as Bears defensive coordinator and nearly four decades as a coach at the NFL and collegiate levels.

Before joining the Bears in 2019, Pagano served as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts for six seasons from 2012-17. He retires at the age of 60 after coaching 18 years in the NFL and 18 years in college.

"After 36 years of coaching the game I love, I have decided to retire from the National Football League," Pagano said in a statement.

"I'd like to sincerely thank the McCaskey family, Ted Phillips, Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy for the opportunity to be a part of such an amazing organization. Also, many thanks to the Irsay family and the Colts organization. I am forever grateful to that community and to the support they have always given me both on and off the field. I'd also like to thank all the coaches, players and staff throughout my career. Thank you will never be enough to express my gratitude.

"As much as I love coaching, it takes a lot of time away from your family and loved ones. I'm excited to start this new chapter of my life and can't wait to be able to spend more time with my family. This has been an amazing ride and I have made countless relationships that I will cherish forever."

Pagano was hired by the Bears to replace Vic Fangio, who left to become head coach of the Denver Broncos. In two seasons under Pagano, the Bears defense ranked fourth in the NFL in points allowed (18.6 per game) and eighth in yards (324.1) in 2019 and 13th in points (23.0) and 11th in yards (347.3) in 2020.

"I did not know Chuck at all prior to these last two years," said coach Matt Nagy, "and what he's brought to us and what he's taught us—everybody in our family here—is second to none. For him to come to me [Tuesday] morning and break the news to me and just say it's time to call it a career and he's going to walk away, he's sacrificed, his family's sacrificed so much for him and now it's time for him to sacrifice for them. He's at total peace with it, and so I just think again thank you coach for that and he's going to be a great grandad and enjoy that family time."

As Colts head coach, Pagano compiled a record of 53-43 in the regular season and 3-3 in the playoffs. He led the Colts 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.

A native of Boulder, Colo., Pagano became only the second head coach in NFL history to register at least 11 wins in each of his first three seasons with a team and became the third head coach in Colts history to reach the playoffs in each of his first three years.

Pagano's first season in Indianapolis in 2012 proved to be challenging yet inspirational when he was forced to take a leave of absence just three games after being diagnosed with a curable form of leukemia. Serving as the team's interim head coach, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians led the Colts to a 9-3 record.

Indianapolis secured a wild card berth, extending the season for Pagano's return. He came back after missing 12 weeks and led the Colts to a win over the Texans in their season finale to finish with an 11-5 record.

Pagano's battle with leukemia led him to form the Chuckstrong Foundation, which has raised more than $4.7 million for continued cancer research.

"When you sit back and you realize what this man has been through and what he's done for this league and what he's done for so many coaches in this league, including myself," Nagy said, "and what we've learned from him not just as a coach but as a person, this guy's been through it all. I'd be remiss if I didn't just thank him from all of us."

"With Chuck, I just want to echo what Matt said," said general manager Ryan Pace. "Beyond football, just the person he is, the man that he is, I personally just learned so much from him, and that's past football, just the human being that he is. The things that he's been through and the experiences that he's had, I think we're all better from being around Chuck Pagano the last two years and just appreciate him immensely."

Prior to joining the Colts, Pagano spent four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, serving as defensive backs coach from 2008-10 and defensive coordinator in 2011. He has also worked in the NFL as a defensive backs coach with the Cleveland Browns (2001-04) and Oakland Raiders (2005-06).

Pagano's 18 seasons at the collegiate level were primarily as a defensive assistant at USC (1984-85), Miami (1986 and 1995-2000), Boise State (1987-88), East Carolina (1989 and 1992-94), UNLV (1990-91) and North Carolina (2007).