Seahawks request Sean Desai for defensive coordinator interview

All of which is a reminder that the Bears’ predicament — they fired coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace after a 6-11 season — was never rooted in defensive failings.

SHARE Seahawks request Sean Desai for defensive coordinator interview
Sean Desai was the Bears’ defensive coordinator in 2021.

Sean Desai was the Bears’ defensive coordinator in 2021.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The Bears’ defense didn’t dominate the Seahawks on Dec. 26, but there were signs that coordinator Sean Desai’s charges were still playing with an edge.

With about eight minutes left and with his team behind by seven, Bears outside linebacker Robert Quinn sacked Russell Wilson for a loss of 13 yards on third down. Jason Myers missed a 39-yard field goal on the next play to keep the Bears in the game.

After the Bears took their first and only lead with 67 seconds to play, they forced a turnover on downs on five plays to clinch the game. Three of the Seahawks’ five second-half possessions, in fact, yielded six yards or less.

“It just shows kinda what we’ve seen here — that they’ve been gritty,” Desai said later that week. “We’re putting together some performances as of late.”

That was enough to grab the Seahawks’ attention. One day after coach Pete Carroll fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. and defensive passing-game coordinator Andre Curtis, a source confirmed Wednesday that they’ve asked to speak to Desai about their vacant coordinator job. It’s the second such request for a Bears coordinator — special-teams boss Chris Tabor got one from the Panthers last week.

Ed Donatell, the former Bears assistant who first worked alongside Carroll at University of the Pacific in 1983, is expected to be a candidate for the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator job, too. If Desai doesn’t get the Seahawks gig, he could land elsewhere during the hiring cycle. Several head-coaching candidates have explored linking up with Desai should they land a job.

All of which is a reminder that the Bears’ predicament — they fired coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace after a 6-11 season — was never rooted in defensive failings.

The fall from excellent under Vic Fangio to merely good under Chuck Pagano and Desai was exacerbated by Nagy’s offensive ineptitude. Only five defenses gave up more yards than the Bears’ in 2021. The Bears ranked 22nd in points allowed, a far cry from their No. 1 rank in 2018. That would have qualified as an achievement on the offensive side of the ball, though: The Bears’ offense never finished better than 22nd in points scored the last three years.

In his one season as coordinator, Desai seemed to be a high-level teacher and a capable tactician. Although the Bears were one of the league’s worst teams in terms of takeaways — only four teams had fewer than their 16 — Desai did some of his best coaching after his best players got hurt.Outside linebacker Khalil Mack missed 10 games. Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks missed eight — and played only one snap in another before getting hurt.Among defensive starters, only inside linebacker Roquan Smith and defensive lineman Bilal Nichols played in every game. By contrast, seven starters could make the same claim in 2020 — and two more played in all but one that year.

Desai has been in this kind of limbo often. A Bears employee since 2013, he has worked under Marc Trestman, John Fox and Nagy. The timing might not be right for Desai to stick around for his fourth head coach, particularly if the Bears are stressing a fresh start.

Besides, Desai already might have a job by then.

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