LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy expressed confidence on Wednesday that the team’s top-ranked defense will sustain its level of success under new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. Nagy hired Pagano in January to replace Vic Fangio, who departed to become head coach of the Denver Broncos.
“I have zero concerns,” Nagy said at the conclusion of the Bears’ second OTA workout. “It’s going to be exciting. We are seeing some different looks out there that we haven’t seen with Vic. It’s been neat.”
A 16-year NFL coaching veteran, Pagano takes over arguably the league's best defense. The Bears ranked No. 1 in the NFL in takeaways (36), interceptions (27) and interceptions returned for touchdowns (five). They also allowed the fewest rushing touchdowns (five), posted the lowest passer rating allowed (72.9) and surrendered the fewest 20-plus-yard plays (46) in 2018.
Additionally, Chicago set a franchise record for fewest rushing yards allowed in a 16-game season.
Pagano told reporters on Wednesday that he and the rest of the defensive staff are in the infant stages of installing the scheme but that some of what Chicago ran with Fangio would remain.
“It would be foolish on my part not to have some carryover considering what they’ve done,” Pagano said on Wednesday. “Vic and I were together at one point in Baltimore, so there’s some common threads that run through both systems, and that’s a good thing for these guys and myself.”
Pagano was the Colts' head coach for six seasons (2012-17), leading Indianapolis to two AFC South championships (2013, 2014) and three consecutive playoff appearances (2012-14). Pagano was fired with a 53-43 regular-season record and a 3-3 mark in the postseason. The veteran coach served as a consultant for the NFL during the 2018 season, the first time in 33 years Pagano was without a coaching job.
“It was great to have time off to do some things I haven't been able to do in 33 years,” Pagano said. “But again, you ask any player that's been let go or put on the street and then been given another opportunity, another team, another locker room, coaches to be around, players to be around, come out here and run around like a kid again -- there's nothing better.”
Prior to accepting the Colts' head-coaching job, Pagano served as the Baltimore Ravens' defensive coordinator in 2011. Pagano coached the Ravens' secondary from 2008 to 10.
“[Pagano] connects so well with the players,” Nagy said. “He connects so well with his coaches. He’s a big communicator -- that’s one of his biggest strengths. Is this thing going to happen overnight? Absolutely not. He knew that coming in here. We had one of the best defenses in the NFL, and he knows what kind of challenge that is, because there’s expectations not just from the media and from the fan base but from his own players. They know what they did under Vic’s regime and his coaching staff. So I think that’s going to be really neat to watch organically happen, but there’s got to be some patience involved there, so that’s what we’ll continue to talk through.”