Hold on tight, Bears fans. The NFL coaching carousel is about to take us on a spin.
It’s that time of the year where coaches from successful teams get poached and the Bears are ripe for the pickin’ after a 12-win regular season. Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio is a finalist for the Denver Broncos head-coaching position and Quarterbacks Coach Dave Ragone could be a target for the Tennessee Titans’ vacant offensive coordinator spot after Matt LaFleur left to become the Green Bay Packers’ head coach. Unfortunately, Fangio and Ragone aren’t the only Bears coaches who could draw interest elsewhere.
Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports the contract of Bears Defensive Backs Coach Ed Donatell is expiring. Donatell has been an important piece of Chicago’s defensive puzzle. Because while Fangio and John Fox were on the front lines orchestrating the defense, Donatell was developing the likes of Eddie Jackson, Adrian Amos, Bryce Callahan, and Kyle Fuller. That’s two All-Pro defensive backs in Jackson and Fuller to go along with a pair of Pro Football Focus darlings in Amos and Callahan who went from diamond-in-the-rough types to key cogs on the Bears defense. With that being said, Donatell and his pending free agency is worth tracking.
If Fangio is hired as the Broncos next head coach, it would make sense for the Bears to promote Donatell. In addition to keeping continuity and familiarity with regards to verbiage and scheme, retaining Donatell would allow the Bears to keep someone with play-calling experience as a defensive coordinator. Continuity and familiarity with this defense and its players could be valuable to the Bears moving forward. And frankly, it’s not difficult to envision Donatell stepping in for Fangio and doing a fine job in Chicago if they decided to go this route.
Even if Donatell wasn’t a free-agent-to-be, keeping him wouldn’t be that easy.
Donatell has worked along side Fangio since the two were assistants on Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers staff. So even if the Bears wanted to move Donatell up a rung if Fangio left for the Broncos job, it’s possible Donatell would follow Fangio to Denver and become his defensive coordinator. Remember, the NFL does not allow teams to block coaches from leaving for promotions. So in this scenario, the Bears would lose their DC and most logical/sensible in-house replacement. Sigh. It’s a reality that I don’t want to come to grips with at this particular moment, but it’s one I had to address. Moving on.
For the sake of clarity, I’d like to point out Donatell isn’t the only candidate the Bears could look at as their next defensive coordinator. HOWEVER, their pool of candidates could be shrinking.
NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport reports the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are set to hire Bruce Arians as the team’s next head coach. Arians cited health issues as he stepped away from the Arizona Cardinals last year and announced his retirement from coaching. It’s a move that could have a trickle-down impact on the Bears.
Rapoport also reports that former Jets Head Coach Todd Bowles is Arians’ “top choice” to be the team’s defensive coordinator. It would be a reunion of ex-Cardinals coaches in Florida. Before joining the Jets, Bowles was Arians’ DC in Arizona in 2013-14 and even earned the first-ever Assistant Coach of the Year award. Bowles has long-standing ties with Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy, which loosely connects him to Chicago as a potential candidate to be the team’s DC if the job becomes available. We briefly discussed his candidacy here as part of a larger discussion regarding Nagy’s potential contingency plans.
And to tie it all together, NFL Media jack-of-all-trades Peter Schrager reports the Cardinals are hiring Kliff Kingsbury to become their next head coach. Kingsbury’s wild winter started with his firing as Texas Tech’s head coach, hiring as USC’s offensive coordinator, being blocked from NFL interviews, and eventually hired in Arizona. A young head coach with no NFL experience will likely want to build a staff with veteran defensive know-how, which again, could impact what happens in Chicago if a shakeup on the defensive side of the coaching staff happens.
The Bears are barely two full days removed from a gut-punch of a playoff loss, but changes to a highly successful coaching staff could be on the horizon. Buckle up, Bears fans. We’re on shaky ground until further notice.