Three ways the Bears’ coaching staff will be different in 2021

“We’re united,” GM Ryan Pace said. “We’re on the same page. We see things the same way. And now it’s just about attacking it together, and that’s what we’re doing.”

SHARE Three ways the Bears’ coaching staff will be different in 2021

Former Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine joined the Bears last month.

AP Photos

Bears general manager Ryan Pace was asked what he considered the strength of his team.

“I’d start with this — I think our strength is our coaching staff,” he said Tuesday. “I think we have a strong coaching staff that we built upon this offseason. But yeah, I mean, our defense is the strength of our team.”

The coaching answer was a strange one — the Bears have had little continuity during Matt Nagy’s head-coaching career. Earlier this year, Sean Desai was promoted from safeties coach to be Nagy’s third defensive coordinator in four seasons. Nagy has employed two different offensive coordinators, two run-game coordinators and two pass-game coordinators. Only two assistants hold the same job today that they did in Nagy’s first year: receivers coach Mike Furrey and special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor.

Bears coaches old and new know the challenge — and it’s significant — in front of them this offseason. Every morning, they gather at Halas Hall for scheme evaluation meetings, comparing tape of their offense and defense from the last three seasons. They’ll help break down options at quarterback and in the draft, when the front office needs it. 

“We’re united,” Pace said. “We’re on the same page. We see things the same way. And now it’s just about attacking it together and that’s what we’re doing. And we’re excited about doing that in the coming months.”

Here are three things that will be different than last year:

Big names, small roles

Short of Nagy himself, the two most famous coaches inside Halas Hall this year will be newcomers. Earlier this week, the Bears named Tom Herman, the University of Texas head coach the last four seasons, as an offensive analyst with a focus on special projects. Last month, Nagy named Mike Pettine, the Packers’ defensive coordinator the last three seasons and a former Browns head coach, as a senior defensive assistant.

Nagy shares an agent — former Bears defensive lineman Trace Armstrong — with both men.

Nagy has been quick to praise Pettine the last three years leading into rivalry games. He sees him as a “sounding board” for Desai. To his credit, the first-year coordinator was fine with the plan.

“When you have smart people in your building that you feel like can help out and you don’t have people that are in positions where they have an ego or they’re a threat . . . it’s just not good, it’s unhealthy,” Nagy said. “We don’t want that. And that’s what I’m so looking forward to seeing how that thing blends together.”

Herman, who has never coached in the NFL, “brings the element of the college game — whether it’s in evaluating or whether it’s schematically,” Nagy said. 

The two might even cross over.

“Tom Herman can be a help to Sean Desai,” Nagy said. “And Pettine can be a help to [the offense].”

The new coordinator

When Nagy had to hire Fangio’s replacement, he took two days. 

When he hired Pagano’s replacement, he took 10. 

With a more deliberate tack — and leaning on experience from two years ago — Nagy interviewed nine candidates.

“That was different than the first time,” he said. “And then there were a lot of great ones.”

Nagy picked Desai because he admired his conviction and confidence. Desai is the rare NFL coach who didn’t play college football, but players still have an “unbelievable connection” with him, Nagy said. 

“To see the way the guys respect him and the way that he works and how he got to this point, it was really neat . . . ” Nagy said. “I’m just really excited and looking forward to him putting his spin onto this defense. 

“He’s been waiting for this for a long time, and now the opportunity is here.” 

The new position coaches

For the third consecutive year, the Bears have revamped the coaching staff on one side of the ball. In 2019, they replaced Fangio, who took two defensive assistants with him when he became the Broncos’ head coach. Last year, Nagy fired his offensive coordinator,

offensive line coach and tight ends coach. 

This offseason, the Bears promoted Desai and added three new defensive position coaches: inside linebackers coach Bill McGovern, defensive line coach Chris Rumph and assistant defensive backs coach Mike Adams. They moved pass-rush analyst Bill Shuey to outside linebackers coach and named Pettine senior defensive assistant.

Nagy said he wasn’t concerned by the staff turnover, calling Fangio’s departure “uncontrollable.” He put Pagano’s retirement in the same category.

Desai has been getting to know his new coaches during daily meetings at Halas Hall.

“A lot of new guys on that side, they are really able to kind of feel who each other is,” Nagy said. “Their personalities. [They] have ideas. And not having to click the ‘unmute’ button every time they talk [on Zoom]. So that part has been good.”

Nagy, though, has noticed a change in his offensive meetings. Coordinator Bill Lazor and quarterbacks coach/pass-game coordinator John DeFilippo know Nagy’s scheme much better than they did at this time last year.

“I can’t even begin to tell you how much easier it is going into watching the film right now in the morning together and everybody knowing it,” Nagy said. “And not having to re-teach things.” 

The Latest
A big notebook of observations and takes from the big week of regional play.
What the Bears will do with the quarterback and the No. 1 overall pick figure to dominate the proceedings.
“Driving back downtown, seeing the skyline and everything like that, it hits home a little bit more,” the legendary Hawks-turned-Red Wings forward said Sunday.
With history under attack down South, Black History Month is more important than ever.