Chuck Pagano decided that after two years running the Chicago Bears defense, it was time to step away and retire. A former cancer survivor and 60-years old, it wasn’t a huge surprise. Pressure was mounting from the outside for the team to make a change. Rather than force the hand of Matt Nagy, he took the back door out. Now the Bears head coach will search for his third defensive coordinator in four years.
Whoever it ends up being will be walking into a difficult situation. While the Bears defense still has plenty of talent, it is starting to show some age. Akiem Hicks, Danny Trevathan, and Robert Quinn are all in their 30s. Khalil Mack will be joining them shortly. Kyle Fuller turns 29 soon. The hope at this point is the group has at least one good year left in it before changes become necessary.
Not to mention Nagy clearly entering the 2021 season on the hot seat.
It’s a fair bet the Bears won’t be the hottest destination for the top candidates. So the head coach will have to find somebody with at least some credibility who would be willing to take the gamble. Probably a coach who isn’t currently employed as free agents tends to be easier to lure. According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, there is one name already considered a favorite.
“One name to keep a close eye on is James Bettcher, the former defensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants. Two sources told said Bettcher did some consulting for the Bears this season after the Giants being fired him a year ago.
Bettcher was the outside linebackers coach under Pagano with the Colts in 2012 and then worked under defensive coordinator Todd Bowles in Arizona. Bowles and Nagy are close, so there’s a tie-in.”
Nagy attempted to lure Bowles to Chicago back in 2019. Unfortunately, the former Jets head coach decided to reunite with Bruce Arians down in Tampa Bay. A move that has proven fruitful for his career with the Bucs pursuing a Super Bowl. Bettcher did some good work in Arizona, producing a top 6 defense every year he was there. However, he struggled during two seasons in New York with finishes of 24th and 25th.
Chicago Bears have reasons to like Bettcher
He’s still a young coach at 42 and has proven he can get results when he has enough talent to work with as he did in Arizona. He’s not afraid to be aggressive. In 2015, no fewer than 14 different players ended up with at least one sack. He’s known for being one of the most blitz-happy defensive coordinators in the league. He routinely averages top 5 in terms of blitz percentage.
In 2016, both Chandler Jones and Markus Golden finished with double-digit sacks. Tyrann Mathieu and Budda Baker were both All-Pro safeties under his watch. The guy isn’t a complete slouch. His scheme is known for being creative in finding ways to confuse both the offensive line and the quarterback at the line of scrimmage. The less they can discern, the better.
Ready for a pretty wild stat?
Aaron Rodgers has faced Bettcher twice. Both in 2015. He posted passer ratings of 66.2 and 77.6 in those two meetings with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Having that kind of success against a Hall of Fame player like Rodgers is not easy. If he does end up being the guy, the Chicago Bears can be assured of one thing. He’s not going to hold anything back.