The Chicago Bears cooked up top-10 defenses in each of the last two seasons under Chuck Pagano, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. And while Chicago’s defense is still loaded with stars, the unit saw Pagano ride off into the sunset and into retirement. Now, Matt Nagy turns to Sean Desai, a 37-year-old rising star in the coaching world who was once Vic Fangio’s right-hand man. Desai has his work cut out for him, but he’ll get to put his imprint on a defense that needs to regroup in order to reach its full potential before this team’s competitive window closes.
Previous Coaching Experience
• Chicago Bears (Safeties 2019-2020; Quality Control Assistant, 2013-18)
• Boston College (Running Backs/Special Teams Coordinator, 2012)
• University of Miami (Fla.) (Assistant Director of Football Operations, 2011)
• Temple University (Defensive and Special Teams Coach, 2006-10)
Notable Coaches Worked For…
• Chuck Pagano (2019-20)
• Vic Fangio (2015-18)
• John Fox (2015-17)
• Mel Tucker (2013-14)
Desai is a Vic Fangio protégé, which seems to be the best thing you can be right now. Fangio underlings to go onto defensive coordinator gigs elsewhere include Brandon Staley (who has upgraded to head coach with the Chargers), Renaldo Hill (who was the Broncos’ DBs Coach last year), and now Desai. It’s like the Sean McVay coaching tree. But on the other side of the ball. And with a coach who has more salt-and-pepper in his hair. This isn’t to say it’s gonna work because Desai worked for Fangio. But I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Fangio’s guys are fast risers.
Hey, It Might Work
Desai has seen it all in Chicago. He experienced the Marc Trestman era, the post-Trestman teardown, rebuilding under John Fox, the rockstar campaign of 2018, and the leveling off of the last two years. So even at age 37, Desai has seen some things. At this point, he should know what works and what doesn’t. Moreover, Desai should have an idea of how to implement his own ideas in an attempt to clean up some things that went off track. If the goal is to bring the Fangio style back to life, then hiring a coach who witnessed what was working then and what changed since is a logical step toward getting there.
If this is going to work, it’s because Desai channels 2018 energy and schemes into 2021. Obviously, the end game is to pressure quarterbacks, take them down, and force turnovers. But to get there, Desai will need to re-create formulas that were tried and tested when this defense was at the peak of its powers. Create numbers game mismatches on the defensive side of the ball. Confuse quarterbacks and play-callers alike. Disguise coverages. Bring additional heat when necessary. And more. All while working with a defense that is three years older. No pressure, new guy.
Because There’s Always a But…
Desai hasn’t called plays at this level. So while his experience, youthful energy, and ideas could all be good, that we have no idea how he will call games because he hasn’t done it before is a point of concern.
There are real risks with the leap of faith that comes with handing play-calling duties to someone who has never done it before. Especially when it’s virtually a win-or-go-home year for these Bears. Evidently, GM Ryan Pace and Head Coach Matt Nagy have faith in Desai with their respective jobs on the line. That really says something to me. So with that being said, I won’t lose sleep over Desai’s lack of play-calling experience. The powers that be trust in Desai, and I’m willing to give him a shot. However, it’s something that will stick in my mind until we see it unfold on the field.
They Said It …
To all my Bears peeps. This is what I said on Thursday (and still agree now) about Sean Desai. If you wanna get back to the 2018 level, he’s your best best.. pic.twitter.com/UVRamrsdWG
— Sam Acho (@TheSamAcho) January 19, 2021
HUGE hire for the Chicago Bears. Congrats to Sean Desai on becoming the next Bears Defensive Coordinator. They’ve got some holes fill at D line coach and offensive skill coaches, but this is a step in the right direction. Expect more of what you saw in 2018 but w/ his own flavor
— Sam Acho (@TheSamAcho) January 22, 2021
Played HS football with new @ChicagoBears DC Sean Desai. Beyond proud of him. Chased his dream and believed in himself. Brilliant mind. Put on his time. So excited for him man!!
— Dan Orlovsky (@danorlovsky7) January 22, 2021