Chuck Pagano has vacated the Chicago Bears defensive coordinator job with a sudden retirement. It’s the second time in three seasons this spot has become available. Vic Fangio leaving for Denver was of course the other time in 2019. Now head coach Matt Nagy has the difficult job of once again finding a coordinator who can keep this defense near the top of the NFL despite a number of its top stars starting to get older.
This on top of his job security being in question. Recent announcements revealed he will be back in 2021, but everybody can see it’ll be on a short leash. Will any top candidates want to come to Chicago knowing there’s a strong possibility the head coach gets fired if the Bears don’t produce a winning season? Knowing all of this, here are some potential options the team can snare over the coming weeks.
Chicago Bears defensive coordinator options aren’t rich
Jay Rodgers (Bears defensive line coach)
This is the best in-house option and also the most likely one. Remember that Nagy is entering a season where most will view him on a short leash. That will make it tough to lure quality candidates. Rodgers himself is quality though. He is one of the best defensive line coaches in the NFL, having gotten the most from his players since arriving in 2015. He’s 44-years old and has learned under the likes of Vic Fangio and Jack Del Rio. The man should be ready for this opportunity.
James Bettcher (Free agent)
Somebody with extensive 3-4 experience, which would speak well to the Bears’ current situation. Bettcher was a rising star in Arizona, producing a top 10 unit three-straight years from 2015 through 2017. When it looked like Vic Fangio might leave in 2018 after Matt Nagy was hired, Bettcher was reported to have serious interest in being a replacement. The Lakeville, Indiana native apparently grew up a Bears fan. Fangio ended up staying and Bettcher headed off to take over the Giants defense in New York. While that didn’t go well, the man still has credibility and is available.
Kris Richard (Free agent)
Many still view Richards as one of the better rising young coaches in the NFL despite having been unemployed in 2020. He was the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks from 2015 through 2017. During that time they finished in the top 5 twice and were still respectable even during his final year. Then as defensive backs coach in Dallas, he helped Byron Jones reach the Pro Bowl, and the Cowboys defense rank top 10 against the pass in 2019. Success seems to follow him wherever he goes. That is never a bad thing.
Jerod Mayo (Patriots inside linebackers coach)
One thing about Bill Belichick is he knows how to identify really smart football minds. Mayo was the brain behind the New England Patriots defense as a player for several years. That intelligence seems to have carried over to his new job as their inside linebackers coach. D’Onta Hightower made his second Pro Bowl in 2019 with his help and Ja’Whaun Bentley set careers highs in tackles (91) and sacks (1.5) this past season. Learning under the like of Belichick, Dean Pees, and Brian Flores has prepared him for a defensive coordinator role.
Aaron Glenn (Saints secondary coach)
A former three-time Pro Bowler, Glenn had 41 interceptions in his NFL career. So he knows a thing or two about playing defense in the pros. That has reflected in his work as a defensive backs coach. Since joining the New Orleans Saints in 2016, their secondary has steadily become one of the best in football. Marshon Lattimore has become a Pro Bowler while Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Williams are dependable starters as well. The man is already getting head coaching looks. So he is ready for a promotion.