The Chicago Bears’ search for a new defensive coordinator has unearthed a pair of early favorites.
Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports that the team has interviewed Defensive Backs Coach Ed Donatel as a possible Fangio replacement and shown an early interest in former Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano, as well. First, let’s talk about Donatell, whose candidacy for the position we examined here just last night.
Donatell has coached members of the Bears secondary since 2015 and has seen the rise of All-Pros Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson, the growth from fifth-round pick to Pro Bowl alternate of Adrian Amos, and the development of Bryce Callahan from an undrafted free agent to a PFF darling in slot corner. If the Bears make Donatell their defensive coordinator, they could retain the scheme, verbiage, and continuity that was valued when Fangio re-joined the team after his brief dalliance in free agency last winter.
However, at least two hang-ups exist when it comes to the Donatell’s return. First, he’s actually a “free agent,” so to speak, after his contract expired this season. The Bears have no contract control and can’t just promote him and end their search with the snap of a finger. In order to give Donatell the promotion from DBs Coach to DC, he’ll need to agree to a new contract. And it’s not like Donatell doesn’t have options. Donatell has coached along side Fangio since 2011 and could conceivably join him in Denver. If that’s how things pan out, the Bears could explore external possibilities. And that’s where Pagano comes into play.
Like Donatell, Pagano is a free agent and a person of interest at other spots around the league. According to Biggs, Pagano has interviewed with the Panthers regarding a possibility of coaching their defensive backs and has drawn reported interest from the Browns and Cardinals for their respective DC vacancies too. We’ll take a deeper dive into what Pagano offers in a little bit. But the most important things to know about him right now is that he’s got head-coaching experience with the Colts and time as a defensive coordinator with the Raven under his belt already. He even crossed paths with Fangio back when the two were assistants in Baltimore. Small world!
If the Bears want to stick with an in-house candidate, then Donatell makes sense because he knows the players, coaches, and staff members he’ll be working with moving forward. But if the Bears want an external, but experienced hire, Pagano could be their guy. What Pagano lacks in familiarity with the Bears he makes up with in experience. And that’s not to be overlooked. Nagy will likely want to keep his focus on building up the offense, where he is best positioned to succeed, so he’ll need to have the sort of defensive coordinator he can lean on heavily – a guy who can handle a lot of responsibility. Who better than a former head coach to do just that?
(Michael: The Bears defensive coordinator job should be extremely attractive. Aside from having an up-and-coming overall team, there’s obviously a star-studded defense to mold *and* the potential for a lot of freedom, as Nagy focuses on the other side of the ball. Any ambitious coach – former head coach or not – will relish such an opportunity.)
It’s tough to imagine too many more deserving candidates, but this offseason has a slew of worthwhile coaches who could be looking at the Bears’ DC position longing for this gig. But so far, the Bears have two coaches on their radar who seem like ideal fits.