It turned out to be a pretty eventful day in Chicago Bears football. At the same time that news struck that head coach Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace would be returning for the 2021 season, it was also revealed that defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano is planning to retire. Pagano turned 60-years old this past year and is a cancer survivor. One can imagine the high pressure of his position along with the noticeable decline of his defense compelled him to step down.

They finished 14th in points allowed and 11th in total yards. A significant step down from where they were just two years ago as the #1 defense in the NFL. Many questioned Pagano’s handling of the group, believing his system to be far too vanilla and predictable. He relied too much on his players to be great and didn’t give them enough help. That is why their stats lines were down. Now Nagy gets to search for yet another replacement.

Who might that end up being?

The first name that comes to mind is Jay Rodgers. He’s been the longest-tenured assistant on the Bears defensive staff. All the way back since Vic Fangio arrived in 2015. His work with the defensive line has been nothing short of exemplary. One could easily argue the man is overdue for an opportunity to coach an entire defense.

There is also James Bettcher. The Bears showed interest in the former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator back in 2019 before he headed off to New York to join the Giants. Now he is a free agent. It would be interesting to see if Nagy shakes that tree again. Another name to watch is Kris Richard who did some strong work in both Seattle and Dallas.

Chuck Pagano didn’t do bad. He just didn’t do enough

The Bears defense still played well in a lot of games. Their effort in the playoffs against New Orleans was highly commendable, holding that Saints offense to just seven points until four minutes left in the 3rd quarter. The problem has been the stars aren’t playing like stars. Khalil Mack finished without double-digit sacks for the second season in a row. Akiem Hicks had just 3.5. His lowest total since 2015. Eddie Jackson might be the worst case, failing to record an interception for the first time in his career.

Chuck Pagano didn’t maximize their talents and that is something that just can’t happen. Not with two of them reaching the tail ends of their primes. By retiring, he was able to save face and it gives the Bears an opportunity to find someone who can get the most out of their abilities while there’s still time.

Whether Nagy can attract any good candidates?

That is something else entirely. It’s painfully obvious he will be on a short leash. What respectable coordinator candidate will want to come to Chicago knowing full well the staff could be fired after just one season. That is what makes the entire process so confusing. It will be interesting to see what happens.