‘It’s just like Bama’ — the 4-word pitch that lured Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to Bears
As one of only two new defensive starters — nickel cornerback Buster Skrine is the other — Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is working on fitting into the Bears’ brotherhood.
All-Pro safety Eddie Jackson’s agent tipped him off that Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was visiting Halas Hall in March.
So Jackson found another ally — quarterback Mitch Trubisky — and put together a quick, in-person free-agent pitch for his former Alabama teammate.
It boiled down to four words.
“It’s just like Bama,” Jackson said Wednesday, his first public comments since his fellow safety agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal. “I told him, this defense is just like Bama.”
He was right — but for reasons that go beyond the scheme and otherworldly talent. The Bears’ atmosphere, Clinton-Dix said, is downright collegial. And collegiate.
“It’s about a brotherhood,” Clinton-Dix, a former Packer and Redskin, said after the Bears’ OTA practice. “All these guys are so close to one another. We spend so much time with each other outside this facility.
“That’s amazing. You don’t find too many guys that can hang out together outside of this and create a bond. . . . I was in for a shock, man. They’re special here.”
The Bears share traits with college football’s premier brand, he said.
“It’s traditional,” Clinton-Dix said. “A lot of great guys. Everybody here is down-to-earth.”
As one of only two new defensive starters — nickel cornerback Buster Skrine is the other — Clinton-Dix is working on fitting into that brotherhood. It helps that he has Jackson — whom he recruited to join the Crimson Tide — to lean on.
“Eddie is a loyal guy,” he said. “I trust everything he said to me, and I know he wouldn’t lie to me. Once he said it was like Bama, I was ready to sign.”
One thing helping the transition: Everyone is learning something new. New defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano is teaching his scheme to the disciples of new Broncos coach Vic Fangio. Pagano brought his own staff, too — with the exception of defensive line coach Jay Rodgers and new safeties coach Sean Desai, whom the team promoted from a quality-control job.
Asked about Clinton-Dix’s inconsistent 2018 — the Packers traded him after 4½ seasons to the Redskins on Oct. 30 — Desai said he prefers to examine Clinton-Dix’s career tape.
“He’s shown he’s a highly instinctual player,” Desai said. “He’s shown that he’s got good ball skills and good range. And those are the traits we’re going to develop.”
Clinton-Dix has found some familiarity in Pagano’s system. His defensive coordinator in Washington, Greg Manusky, was Pagano’s coordinator for four years with the Colts.
“It’s kinda like [Alabama coach Nick] Saban’s system,” Clinton-Dix said. “It’s the same exact thing, just different terminology. Once you grasp that, man, you’re good to go.”
Asked about Clinton-Dix, Pagano was quick to tout his 2016 Pro Bowl berth.
“So he’s as good as he wants to be,” Pagano said. “He’s doing a great job like everybody else. We’ve got a long way to go. He’s got a long way to go. But it seems like he’s making an easy transition. He’s been a part of this system. So from a terminology standpoint, there’s some carryover for him, which helps him.”
Pagano appreciates his size — Clinton-Dix is 6-1, 208 pounds — and his versatility.
“He’s got great instincts; he’s got ball skills,” Pagano said. “Everything you’re looking for in a safety. He can play down in the box, and he can play in the deep parts of the zone. Then you can match him up and put him on backs and tight ends and things like that. So he’s got all the skills necessary to do all those things.”
If he does, then it really will be like Alabama.
“He’s always been in my corner since college,” Jackson said. “And now for us to have a chance to play together, it’s fun.”