The Chicago Bears named Chuck Pagano their new defensive coordinator Friday evening, one day after Vic Fangio was hired as head coach of the Denver Broncos.
“We are excited to add Chuck to our staff as defensive coordinator,” Bears head coach Matt Nagy said. “He has successful experience at many different levels in this league and he is a great teacher with an aggressive mentality that fits our style of football. He is a man of high character and has a passion for the game that will no doubt add to the culture we have already started building at Halas Hall.”
Pagano, 58, was out of the NFL last season following a six-year stint as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, where he went 53-43. Pagano guided the Colts to three consecutive postseason appearances, culminating in a trip to the 2014 AFC championship game, prior to going 20-28 over his last three seasons, leading to his firing.
Pagano was the Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator in 2011, when the Ravens had the NFL’s No. 3 overall and scoring defense (No. 1 in Football Outsiders’ DVOA) and went to the AFC title game. He coached Baltimore’s defensive backs from 2008-10, when Ed Reed was twice named first-team All Pro and led the NFL in interceptions. Fangio was a Ravens’ defensive assistant in 2008 and linebackers coach in ’09.
Pagano inherits a Bears defense that was the NFL’s most dynamic in 2018, leading the league in scoring and takeaways and catalyzing the NFC North champion’s worst-to-first turnaround. He inherits All Pros at every level and will install an even more aggressive version of Fangio’s 3-4 scheme that should mesh nicely with Nagy’s philosophy.
Of course, Pagano is no stranger to overseeing star-studded units, working with the likes of Reed (as his DBs coach at the University of Miami and again with the Ravens) and fellow future Hall of Famer Terrell Suggs in addition to Ray Lewis during his time in Baltimore.
Pagano is also no stranger to adversity. He was diagnosed with leukemia in his first season as head coach of the Colts, turning the reins over to offensive coordinator Bruce Arians while he sought treatment. But Pagano was given a clean bill of health and returned to the club for its postseason wild-card victory before regaining his role as head coach the following season.
Filling the shoes of Fangio will be no small task. Pagano’s beloved predecessor inherited the NFL’s worst defense upon his arrival alongside head coach John Fox in the 2015 season. By 2017, it was ranked in the top 10 in both scoring and yardage for the first time since Lovie Smith’s final year, and last season it was among the best defenses in recent NFL memory.
But Pagano has a wide range of experiences he can draw on from his 16 years of NFL coaching including nearly a decade with NFL defensive backs — his area of expertise since his days playing strong safety at the University of Wyoming.