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Bears hire Chuck Pagano as defensive coordinator

Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs jokingly tried to scare away teams looking to hire away his defensive coordinator in 2011.

“He’s a terrible coach,” Suggs told the team’s website. “His players don’t love him, and he doesn’t know what he’s doing when he’s calling a game.”

The ruse didn’t work. The Colts hired Chuck Pagano to be their coach at the end of the season.

Vic Fangio’s players didn’t go quite as far as Suggs in recent weeks, but they openly dreaded the possibility their defensive coordinator would leave to become a head coach.

The Bears named former Colts head coach Chuck Pagano their defensive coordinator. | Darron Cummings/AP Photo

On Thursday, he did, becoming coach of the Broncos. 

On Friday night, the Bears hired Pagano to take Fangio’s place. He inherits, by most measures, the league’s best defense, which has 10 of 11 starters under contract for next year.

“He has successful experience at many different levels in this league and he is a great teacher with an aggressive mentality that fits our style of football,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said in a statement. “He is a man of high character and has a passion for the game that will no doubt add to the culture we have already started building at Halas Hall.”

Nagy chose a veteran with the executive experience to oversee his defensive fiefdom. Pagano will continue to run the Bears’ preferred 3-4 scheme, while Nagy will continue to focus mostly on offense and developing quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

Pagano’s Colts went 53-43 in the regular season from 2012-17, winning two division titles and three playoff games. He feuded with general manager Ryan Grigson, who was fired after the 2016 season. A year later, Pagano was fired, too.

The 58-year-old father of three — and grandfather of three — spent last season as a consultant for the NFL. Wanting to return to coaching, Pagano interviewed for the Broncos’ coaching job Jan. 2 and reportedly talked to the Panthers about staff positions on Thursday.

A Wyoming alum, Pagano coached in college from 1984-2000 before becoming the secondary coach of the Browns from 2001-04 and the Raiders from 2005-06. After one year as North Carolina’s defensive coordinator, he coached the Ravens’ secondary for three years. Fangio was on the Ravens’ staff for two of them.

In his first and only year as defensive coordinator, in 2011, the Ravens defense had the NFL’s best DVOA rating, the Football Outsiders’ metric that measures a unit’s value against the league average.

Three games into his first season as the Colts’ head coach in 2012, Pagano took a leave of absence after being diagnosed with leukemia. After offensive coordinator Bruce Arians went 9-3 in his absence, Pagano coached the season finale.

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The Bears chose Pagano over defensive backs coach Ed Donatell, who helped mold safety Eddie Jackson and cornerback Kyle Fuller into first-team All-Pros. Donatell, who ran the Packers’ defense from 2000-03 and the Falcons’ from 2004-06, could follow Fangio to the Broncos.

He might not be the only one.

“There are some coaches in Chicago that I would like to have on any staff I’m on,” Fangio told the NFL Network late Thursday. “But . . . I’ve got to be careful what I say there. And until anything’s done, I don’t really want to get too concrete with it.”

In the hours after Fangio took the Broncos job, Nagy reached out to former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, a lifelong family friend who played for Nagy’s father in high school.

The Bears’ defensive coordinator job was tempting, but sources said Bowles was unwilling to back out of an agreement to accompany Arians, his mentor, to the Buccaneers.