Chuck Pagano has some rather large shoes to fill and he knows it.
Fortunately, he’ll be well-equipped to take on any challenge, as all but two starters from one of the league’s most ferocious defenses are under contract for 2019. Only time will tell what’ll come from applying Pagano’s defensive wizardry to the talent assembled by GM Ryan Pace, but I’m looking forward to it. And based on Thursday’s press conference, you should be, too.
Pagano’s Commitment to the Bears is Firm
Adam Gase and Vic Fangio have channeled their success as Bears coordinators into NFL head-coaching gigs, so that would make Pagano next in line if he were to keep this defense on the right path … right? Well, not exactly. When asked about a longer-term future upon his return to the NFL, Pagano expressed happiness just coaching the Bears defense moving forward.
“I’ve done it. I’m motivated to just help Matt Nagy be successful, help this organization be successful, help these kids grow and develop. That’s my motivation. To be the best I can be for this organization, the McCaskey family, for Coach Nagy, and for these players. That’s the only thing I want to do.”
While part of me believes Pagano is done as a head coach, he did reportedly interview for the head coach vacancies in Green Bay and Denver, so … who knows. Perhaps the way things ended in Indianapolis, coupled with the interview process for two other teams, has helped guide Pagano into feeling done as a head coach. Pagano talked about times with the Colts, when he wished he was a coordinator or a position coach again. With this perspective, it feels safe to suggest that Pagano could very well be a long-term fixture in Chicago.
What’s This Defense Going to Look Like Anyway?
Thankfully, Pagano sounds like he doesn’t want to fix what’s not broken: “They’ve been playing great defense here for a long time, so throwing that out wouldn’t be very smart on my part.” Whew, that’s a relief. Any other thoughts, coach?
“Wreak havoc and be calculated about it. Want to be aggressive. Want to dictate the tempo. Put a premium on fundamentals and technique. Put a premium on the ball … taking the thing away. Nobody did it better than the Bears last year. Effecting the quarterback. Stopping the run. Getting them in third-and-long so we can be creative and aggressive. And at the end of the day, the bottom line is having fun. Guys want to do that.”
Fun is one of those words that hadn’t been associated with the Bears often enough until Nagy took over. Winning generally breeds fun, so you’d expect a 12-win team that won the NFC North to have fun. But the challenge now is to build on that and keep the good times rolling. Pagano is here for it.
Expectations to be the Best … Ever?
It’s one thing to inherit a great defense. But it’s something totally different to improve on that. To that end, Pagano has one heck of a challenge on his hands, but the pieces are in place to make history. And with Pagano orchestrating it all, he isn’t shying away from the challenge.
“Our vision for this defense is to be the best. Can we be the best in the history of the game? The pieces are there, and they will continue to add pieces. Can we continue to be better than we were last year? Absolutely. It’s going to be very, very difficult, and a huge challenge, but one we will be up for.”
Best in the history of the game? Now we’re talking my language. No one ever did anything great by setting a low bar, so I’m jacked up about seeing Pagano can bring to the table.
Acronyms Are Fun
Let’s check in the KILL philosophy Pagano intends to implement in Chicago: “The philosophy is a KILL philosophy. Keep It Likable and Learn-able. That’s an acronym, you know what I’m talking about. Keep It Likable and Learn-able. So it’ll be complex for you and simple for us.”
Pagano called his new job in Chicago “the opportunity of a lifetime” and while it seems odd that a former head coach would say that about a move into a coordinator role, it’s fair to say Pagano sounds genuinely happy to be in this spot. He talked about how happy he was to “be back on grass” and in a position to get his hands on players and work with guys to get better. Pagano still has work to do to round out his staff and expects to fill what spots remain on the staff in the coming days.
As for Pagano, the enthusiasm he brought to Thursday’s press conference should make fans feel a little bit better about what’s on the horizon for a defense that allowed the fewest points in the regular season.