Losing Vic Fangio did not help Bears fans’ moods after losing in the wild-card round a few days prior. One of the worst parts to come out of this is that if the Bears did not lose, they would be getting ready for a playoff game next week, and Vic Fangio may not have left.
Of course, the same thing happened to the Chiefs last season, as who knows if the Bears would have waited to hire Nagy if they had won their first playoff game as well.
The Bears need to move on, and there are many defensive coordinator candidates out there that the Bears could be interested in. There are numerous ones around the league at whom the Bears could look, but they may find their man on the inside, and continue running what Vic Fangio has built.
There are a couple guys in the Bears’ organization who could have a shot at the job, so I will go over the resumes of each of them.
The Bears’ defensive backs coach is the popular answer for many looking for an internal hire, although he is currently being considered as the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos with Vic Fangio. It may not be as appealing to him though, as the Bears job would allow him to call plays, and it appears that Fangio will be doing that for the Broncos defense.
Make no mistake, Ed Donatell has done an outstanding job developing our defensive backs. Since coming to the Bears in 2015 with Fangio, the Bears’ secondary has consistently improved, as all of their defensive backs have seen steady growth. The Bears pass defense was the most efficient in football according to Football Outsiders.
This is not the first time that he has been a very successful defensive backs coach. In the late 90s, he was a part of a very successful Denver Broncos team that won two Super Bowls.
Ed Donatell has not been a defensive coordinator in quite a while, as the last time was in 2006 with the Atlanta Falcons. He did have a run of success with our rivals to the North, where his defenses went to the playoffs for two out of four seasons.
As a candidate, it is a major concern that he has not coached defenses/called plays in a long time. The best move for Donatell would likely be the follow Vic Fangio, which could potentially hurt the Bears defensive backs.
A sleeper name for the Bears’ defensive coordinator spot is Jay Rodgers. Rodgers joined the staff back in 2015, and just like Donatell, there has been a consistent amount of improved performance for the Bears defensive line. This could be a problem when considering both of these guys, as we do not know how much of an impact they made versus the impact that Vic Fangio made.
A difference that I see between the two is that the Bears defensive line has consistently been great. The secondary has had its struggles for a while, but the Bears defensive line saw significant improvement from the start.
Rodgers has seen an influx of talented personnel since he began his Bears tenure, and he has maintained strong play throughout. His first year was the beginning of the teardown, but the Bears still did a decent job of creating pressure.
After that first year, the Bears got him Akiem Hicks to work with. Hicks is a great example of Rodgers’ work. He immediately became a force for the Bears’ defense after not doing much for the Saints’ or Patriots’ defenses. He went from three sacks to seven sacks, nine solo tackles to 36, five TFL to eleven, and seven QB hits to 17. Hicks was a fantastic signing by Pace, and it seems like Jay Rodgers had a big effect on him.
The Bears are not the only example of Rodgers’ players playing well, as he was the defensive line coach for the Broncos for three years. While he was in Denver, he had a player with double-digit sacks in each of his three seasons. The Broncos led the NFL in rushing defense in yards per game during his tenure, so his defensive linemen were consistently great.
My dark-horse candidate for the Bears Defensive Coordinator position is Brandon Staley. The Bears outside linebacker coach has an interesting path to the NFL. Before he was the Bears outside linebackers coach, he was the defensive coordinator at John Carroll, a Division III School in Ohio.
It must have been quite the change for Staley. Two years ago he was coaching Division III kids, but now he is coaching the best edge rusher in football in Khalil Mack.
Staley did not really have a tough job when it came to Khalil Mack, as he was obviously a finished project when he came to Chicago, but the real task that Staley had was to try and improve Leonard Floyd.
Floyd has gotten mixed reviews over his time as a Chicago Bear, but under Staley’s coaching, you can see a difference in his game. Floyd does not really have the great stats that make him look like he has improved, but if you watch the tape, he looks like a different football player.
Staley does have experience coaching other positions when he was coaching at John Carroll – he was a secondary coach as well as a defensive coordinator – so he knows about positions all over the field. His John Carroll team was stellar, as in his final season as the defensive coordinator there, his defense ended Mount Union’s 112 regular season game winning streak. They held the Mount Union team to only 28 points, while averaged 49.5 points per game that regular season. That same year, he won Coordinator of the Year in Division III.
While his would be a weird career path for a defensive coordinator, guys like Matt Nagy have rapidly climbed up the coaching ladder and have proven to be successful. This would be a risky pick for the Bears, but it would be one that I could get behind.
The thing with all of these candidates that I mentioned is again, we do not know how much of an impact that they have made on the team and we do not know if they can take the next step to lead this defense. The only guys that know that are in the building, so if one of them – especially Rodgers or Staley – ends up being hired, we will just have to wait and see.
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