Nagy doesn't foresee big changes to Bears defense under Pagano

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chuck Pagano

    Chuck Pagano Associated Press

 
 

New defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano may put his own signature on the top-ranked Chicago Bears defense that he inherited from Vic Fangio, but head coach Matt Nagy, who hired Pagano, doesn't foresee wholesale changes to a championship-caliber unit.

That should put Bears fans at ease, or at least those who feared a new boss would tinker too much with what is already a quality product.

"There's going to be some evaluation that has to go on from Chuck," Nagy said Monday at Halas Hall in the 2018 season recap news conference. "But in the end, I feel comfortable knowing that Chuck, by no means, is a guy that says 'Hey we're coming in; we're doing it this way.' None of that. That's not who he is, and I don't think that's what's going to happen."

Pagano was not in attendance, since he was busy coaching in the Collegiate Bowl, a postseason all-star game in California for draft-eligible players. Once the new defensive coordinator gets to Halas Hall, he will familiarize himself with players on tape and adapt his system to the personnel. Like Fangio, Pagano is a proponent of the 3-4 base, but his terminology will be different than what Bears players grew accustomed to in four years under Fangio.

"Our defense is comfortable with what they've done, but they know change is coming," Nagy said. "So there's always that (aspect of), 'What's next?' Chuck is going to have to come in and see, OK, schematically this is what we called it last year. (He's going to say) 'This is what I do, this is what I call it," and then what you've got to do is figure out how that's going to go."

Nagy is confident he's got the right guy to continue to build on the beast that Fangio created. Before he compiled a 53-43 in six years (2012-17) as the Colts' head coach, Pagano spent 11 years as an NFL assistant, including as defensive coordinator in 2011 with the Ravens, where he spent the previous three years as the defensive backs coach. That includes one year (2009) when Fangio was the LB coach in Baltimore.

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It didn't take Nagy long to decide on Pagano. Fangio was named the Broncos' head coach last Thursday, and Pagano was hired the next day. Nagy expects to give Pagano the same high level of control that he bestowed upon Fangio regarding the defense.

"It starts off with good people and good high character, so that's No. 1," Nagy said. "Then you get to the second part, the Xs and Os part, and everything that we talked about in the interview is really what I enjoy and what I think can be really good with this defense."

Bears general manager Ryan Pace compared the hiring of Pagano to when he hired Nagy just over a year ago.

"The more research we did, it was almost like with Matt, everybody you talk to, it just starts bringing it to this (one) person," Pace said. "Chuck checks a lot of boxes that are exciting to be a part of. Matt talked about the aggressive mentality. He's a great person. He's a great evaluator. He's had success where he's been in the past. He's great dealing with people. He's very collaborative. Those are all things that kept on coming up the more we met with him or talked about him. I think it'll be good for our defense. We've got a lot of good players on that side of the ball and we're just looking forward to continuing to improve."

Fangio's use of blitzes could most accurately be described as strategic, as he mostly relied on using four players to get pressure. Pagano has been more likely to send extra pass rushers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"He has an attacking style (and) mentality," Nagy said. "He is aggressive. But yet, as we try to talk about all the time, (you have to) be calculated, too. You've got to be smart with it. But he's been doing it for a long time. He's been in this league for a while. He's had a lot of success. He's been around some really, really good defenses; some really, really good players on defense. The more we talked, the more I felt that this is a really good, perfect fit for us. Just really looking forward to it and excited for it."

The Bears' only other interview for the D.C. job went to Ed Donatell, who has been Fangio's defensive backs coach for the past four years and spent four years with the 49ers before that. He has seven years' experience as a defensive coordinator with the Packers (2000-03) and Falcons (2004-06).

"He did a great job," Nagy said. "Ed's done a lot of good things for us, and I have a lot of respect for him. But we need to do whatever's best for this organization, the players, the coaches and then, you take it all together and weigh it out and you see how it fits. That was definitely something that we looked into and that's a part of the process for us, too. That was important."

There's a good possibility that Donatell could follow Fangio out to Denver as outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley is expected to do. Donatell could be the defensive coordinator in Denver, but it would be in title only, as Fangio will call defensive plays.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We're working through that process right now" Nagy said of bringing Donatell back. "There's a possibility, but he was out of contract so he has a decision to make. We're working through that."

Roy Anderson, the Bears' assistant defensive backs coach last year, is not expected back.

• Bob LeGere is a senior writer at Pro Football Weekly. Follow Bob's Bears reports on Twitter at @BobLeGere or @PFWeekly.

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