While Bears scramble to fix offense, Chuck Pagano to rely on continuity
Coach Matt Nagy compared the defensive staff to his own offensive assistants last offseason. The Bears didn’t replace a single one, and the team spent the offseason trying — unsuccessfully, it turned out — to find a way to make leaps in Year 2.
Bears coach Matt Nagy will spend the offseason trying to fix his offense, sorting through potential changes in play-calling, players and assistant coaches.
That flurry of frantic activity doesn’t figure to apply to the defense. Coordinator Chuck Pagano and his staff appear to be settling in for the long haul.
On Tuesday, Nagy compared the defensive staff to his own offensive assistants last offseason. The Bears didn’t replace any, and the team spent the offseason trying — unsuccessfully, it turns out — to find a way to make leaps in Year 2.
“It’s very obvious that the offensive side of the ball is something that is going to be very, very important to me to get right,” Nagy said. “It’s plan and simple. So that’s going to be that. And when I say me, I mean all of us, staff and obviously [general manager] Ryan [Pace]. So that’s going to be a focus.
“Chuck and his staff will be doing what they need to do to figure out, OK, just like us last year on offense — where we obviously didn’t figure out the right way — but finding out what you do well and what you don’t do well.”
Nagy likes the job Pagano has done in replacing Vic Fangio, whose unit allowed a league-low 17.7 points and totaled a league-high 36 takeaways in 2018. When Fangio was hired away to be the Broncos’ head coach, Pagano was entrusted to, like his predecessor, run his own defensive staff. He kept two Bears position coaches from last season.
“It’s not easy, No. 1,” Nagy said. “It’s never easy following up the amount of success that we had here the previous year. And with the players that are on this defense. As enticing and sexy as it was to be the next defensive coordinator here, there’s also extreme responsibility and accountability to walking into that.”
Only four teams are giving up less than the Bears’ 18.6 points per game this season, and only five are allowing less than their 5.04 yards per play. The Bears have been less dangerous this season, though. Their 16 takeaways are tied for 25th in the league and 20 behind the leader.
The Bears haven’t been dominant enough to make Pagano an alluring head-coaching candidate, particularly in a league with a decided offensive inclination. Including coaches, the Bears will return a defense in 2020 that looks a lot like this year’s.
Only two starters — safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and inside linebacker Danny Trevathan — have expiring contracts. Nick Kwiatkoski, who has ably replaced Trevathan, will be a free agent, too, and the Bears also could part with cornerback Prince Amukamara with minimal financial penalty.
Nagy, who calls the Bears’ offensive plays, has minimal impact on the team’s defensive scheme. He said he’d like to help more in Year 3, but only after he can “figure out solutions” on offense.
That could take awhile. On defense, though, the Bears will lean on continuity.
“I know things take time to adapt for the players — and for the coaches to learn the players and the players to learn the coaches,” Nagy said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how much that improves next year when it’s so much easier walking into OTAs and training camp knowing what they didn’t know at this time last year.”