Bears

Ed Donatell or Chuck Pagano? Evaluating the resumes of reported Bears’ defensive coordinator candidates

Ed Donatell or Chuck Pagano? Evaluating the resumes of reported Bears’ defensive coordinator candidates

 If what’s past is prologue, it’s worth diving into what a pair of potential candidates to replace Vic Fangio as the Bears’ defensive coordinator have done in their coaching careers. 
 
As of Friday afternoon, three potential candidates had already been hired, or will be hired, by other teams: Todd Bowles (Tampa Bay), Vance Joseph (Arizona) and Gregg Williams (New York Jets). But two names have emerged as Bears targets in the last 24 hours: Ed Donatell, the team’s incumbent defensive backs coach; and Chuck Pagano, the former Indianapolis Colts head coach.
 
Let’s look at how their resumes stack up against each other:
 
ED DONATELL
 
Chicago Bears: Defensive backs (2015-2019)
 
Key stat: 21 interceptions from DBs in 2018
 
Donatell’s work with All-Pros Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson stands out, for starters. 
 
Fuller went from an injured, average afterthought to earn a $56 million contract and lead the NFL in interceptions all in the span of two seasons. Beyond those seven picks, Fuller developed into one of the best cover corners in the league, too, allowing 69 receptions in 745 coverage snaps with an average of 3.8 yards after the catch — important for someone who plays mostly off coverage. 
 
Jackson, meanwhile, had six interceptions while excelling as a ball-hawking, yet fundamentally sound, safety. Cornerback Prince Amukamara and safety Adrian Amos both have been solid players since entering the starting lineup in 2017, while slot corner Bryce Callahan had the best year of his career in 2018 before a season-ending injury. And after Callahan was lost for the year, Sherrick McManis stepped in and acquitted himself well. 
 
San Francisco 49ers: Defensive backs (2011-2014)
 
Key stat: 9th, 3rd, 9th, 9th in passing yards/play
 
Donatell’s secondaries with the 49ers were consistently among the best in the league, with standout seasons from cornerback Carlos Rogers, safety Donte Whitner, safety Eric Reid and safety Antoine Bethea highlighting each of those years. 
 
Denver Broncos: Secondary coach (2010)
 
Key stat: 32nd in points/game
 
This was the year in which the Broncos fired Josh McDaniels after 12 games. While this was the league’s worst defense, the coordinator was Don “Wink” Martindale, who went on to scheme this year’s excellent Baltimore Ravens defense. This year shouldn’t be held against anyone who was on that defensive staff. 
 
Atlanta Falcons: Defensive coordinator (2004-2006)
 
Key stat: 14th, 18th, 15th in points allowed/game
 
Donatell’s defenses in Atlanta weren’t anything special, though they did rank No. 1 in third down defense in 2005. The Falcons slid from losing the NFC Championship in 2004 to going 8-8 and 7-9 in the next two years, resulting in the firing of Jim Mora Jr. and his coaching staff. 
 
Green Bay Packers: Defensive coordinator (2000-2003)
 
Key stat: 14th, 5th, 12th, 11th in points allowed/game
 
Donatell was fired after the Packers’ defense slipped in 2003, with the flashpoint a fourth-and-26 conversion by Donovan McNabb that spurred a game-tying Eagles field goal in the divisional round of the playoffs, a game the Packers went on to lose in overtime. Donatell’s defense, in 2002, ranked in the top 10 in passing yards/game (No. 3), passing yards/play (No. 3), interception rate (No. 3), sacks/pass attempt (No. 8) and third down percentage (No. 5), and that group ranked fifth in defensive DVOA. 
 
Denver Broncos: Secondary coach (1995-1999)
New York Jets: Secondary coach (1990-1994)

 
Donatell cut his teeth in the NFL with the Jets and then Broncos, winning two Super Bowls on Mike Shanahan’s staff in Denver. 
 
Final thought: The benefit to promoting Donatell is the Bears wouldn’t have to change much with the structure of their defense. The Chicago Tribune reported the Bears interviewed Donatell this week for their defensive coordinator position, though he could be a candidate to follow Fangio to Denver to be his defensive coordinator, too (though that job would not involve playcalling duties). 
 
CHUCK PAGANO
 
Indianapolis Colts: Head coach (2012-2017)
 
Key stat: One year as top 10 in points allowed/game (2013)
 
Pagano’s Colts teams were more based on Andrew Luck and an explosive offense than great defense, though those Indianapolis defenses rarely were stocked with talent thanks to some poor drafting by general manager Ryan Grigson (Indianapolis’ only first-round pick on defense was defensive end Bjorn Werner, who was a whiff). Defensive end Robert Mathis, though, had an incredible 2013 season under Pagano’s watch, leading the NFL with 19 1/2 sacks and 10 forced fumbles. 
 
The Colts made the playoffs in each of Pagano’s first three seasons, but missed the postseason in his final three years in Indianapolis, culminating with his firing after a 4-12 season in 2017. 
 
Baltimore Ravens: Secondary coach (2008-2010), defensive coordinator (2011)
 
Key stat: No. 1 in defensive DVOA in 2011
 
The Ravens went 12-4 and won the AFC North on the backs of Pagano’s defense, which ranked third in points allowed and third in yards allowed and had two All-Pros in edge rusher Terrell Suggs and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed were there, too, and former Bear Pernell McPhee was second on the team with six sacks. 
 
The Ravens never finished lower than seventh in passing defense DVOA while Pagano was in Baltimore, and his work with Reed in the twilight of his career (a league-leading nine and eight interceptions in 2008 and 2010) could stand out for a Bears team that employs Eddie Jackson.
 
Oakland Raiders: Defensive backs coach (2005-2006)
 
Key stat: 4th in passing defense DVOA in 2006
 
While the Raiders went a league-worst 2-14 in 2006, Pagano’s unit was actually good. In addition to that DVOA efficiency-based success, they ranked third in interception rate (4.39 percent) and fifth in passing yards/play (5.43). Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha picked off eight passes that year. 
 
Pagano spent 2007 as North Carolina’s defensive coordinator before returning to the NFL. 
 
Cleveland Browns: Secondary coach (2001-2004)
 
Key stat: No. 1 in passing defense DVOA in 2001
 
Pagano quickly proved his worth at the NFL level after making the leap from college, where he coached defensive backs at East Carolina, UNLV and Miami (Florida) from 1989-2000. The Browns’ pass defense was the best in the NFL his first year in Cleveland, and ranked 11th and 8th in DVOA the next two years before slipping to 18th in 2004. The 2002 Browns were the last group to make the playoffs in franchise history. 
 
Final thought: Pagano operates a 3-4 scheme and is well-respected around the league, especially for his work with defensive backs. It’s easy to see why he’s getting reported interest from not only the Bears, but teams like the Jets, Cardinals, Browns and Panthers. His experience as a head coach, too, should make him an attractive candidate for Nagy if he’s looking for someone to run the defense similarly to how Fangio did. 

Bears hire Deshea Townsend as defensive backs coach

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USA Today

Bears hire Deshea Townsend as defensive backs coach

The Bears unveiled their first assistant coach hiring since bringing aboard Chuck Pagano as their defensive coordinator, with Matt Nagy announcing the addition of Deshea Townsend as defensive backs coach on Friday. 

Townsend, a former cornerback and 13-year NFL veteran, had previous coaching stops with the New York Giants (assistant defensive backs coach, 2018), Tennessee Titans (secondary coach, 2016-2017), Mississippi State (cornerbacks, 2013-2015) and Arizona Cardinals (assistant defensive backs, 2011-2012). 

Townsend finished his career with 21 interceptions, 15 1/2 sacks and 112 passes defended in 191 games spent primarily with the Pittsburgh Steelers (1998-2009) and Indianapolis Colts (2010). 

Rumors swirled for the last week about the Bears’ potential interest in hiring future Hall of Famer Ed Reed as a defensive backs coach under Pagano, who coached him in college at Miami and in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens. Pagano and Reed are coaching together at the NFLPA Bowl this week.

The Bears appear to have retained defensive line coach Jay Rodgers, while the team announced Ronell Williams was hired on Friday as a defensive quality control coach, a position previously held by Sean Desai.

What should the Bears do with impending free agent Adrian Amos?

What should the Bears do with impending free agent Adrian Amos?

The Bears entered 2018 with two key members of their 2015 draft class playing the final year of their rookie contracts: Defensive lineman Eddie Goldman and safety Adrian Amos.
 
Goldman received a four-year, $42.04 million contract extension with $25 million guaranteed prior to Week 1, cementing him as the anchor for the Bears’ 3-4 base defense for years to come. Amos, meanwhile, was left to play out the final year of his rookie contract and will become an unrestricted free agent in two months.
 
“Really, it’s nothing in my hands anymore,” Amos said at Halas Hall a day after the Bears’ season ended. “I put my tape out there. I played with my teammates. I was really focused more on trying to win a Super Bowl this year. Just, man, it’s a hard day. I know I keep saying that. But it’s a hard day, a hard situation right now.”
 
For Amos, the frustrating feelings of coming up short in the playoffs with that 16-15 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles will fade. The idea of “unfinished business” won’t take precedent over, well, business. Both he and the Bears will have a decision to make in the coming months.
 
The first question is how the Bears value the 25-year-old safety. Amos set career highs in interceptions (two), pass break-ups (seven) and tackles (73) in 2018, all while playing the highest percentage of snaps (97.7 percent) of anyone on Vic Fangio’s defense. He’s proven to be a largely durable player in his four years in Chicago, playing over 1,000 snaps twice (2015, 2018) and dipping below 80 percent of his team’s defensive snaps once (2017, when he missed three games but also didn’t start until Week 4).
 
Amos and Eddie Jackson played off each other well, with Jackson fitting as a rangy ball-hawk and Amos a physical in-the-box type who’s adept against the run. He’s been graded well by Pro Football Focus, for what it’s worth, receiving an 82.7 grade in 2018 and 90.9 grade in 2017.
 
But if the Bears’ internal graded mimicked those of PFF, Amos probably would’ve been signed to an extension. Or, possibly, Ryan Pace is cognizant of the market for free agent safeties and isn’t prepared to commit a significant amount of money to Amos.
 
The largest contract given to a free agent safety in 2018 was a three-year, $16.35 million deal signed by Kurt Coleman with the Carolina Panthers. Tyrann Mathieu, the versatile former All-Pro, had to settle for a one-year, $7 million deal with the Houston Texans (of which $6.5 million was guaranteed, the highest guaranteed money figure for a free agent safety last year). Tre Boston, who had five interceptions in 2017, had to wait until just before training camp to sign a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Arizona Cardinals with only $800,000 guaranteed.
 
Granted, just one year prior, seven free agent safeties received contracts of three or more years with total values over $12 million (including Quintin Demps, who Amos replaced in the starting lineup after a season-ending injury in Week 3). Maybe 2018 was just a bad year for safeties — the Giants’ Landon Collins and the Rams’ LaMarcus Joyner will command hefty contracts, while Seattle’s Earl Thomas will be in high demand. There’s not only more star power in this safety free agent class, but more depth, too — with Amos included in that.
 
“It's an old cliché but you're never staying the same; you're either getting better or you're getting worse,” Pace said. “We need to make sure we're getting better.”
 
Amos’ durability and solid play are certainly positive traits, ones the Bears could deem worthy of a new contract. But would bringing back Amos mean the Bears would be getting better, especially if it comes at the expense of a need elsewhere? Or do the Bears believe Amos could have another gear to his game in Chuck Pagano’s scheme?
 
The Bears’ safety duo in 2018 was acquired in the fourth (Jackson) and fifth (Amos) rounds of the 2017 and 2015 NFL Drafts, respectively. Perhaps the Bears, with around $25 million in cap space (after the expected release of tight end Dion Sims) will figure they can address the safety spot next to Jackson in a few different ways: a competition between a cheap free agent (perhaps like Tennessee’s Kenny Vaccaro, who was a first-round pick of the Saints in 2013 when Pace was there and made $1.5 million in 2018), a mid/late-round draft pick, or an internal option (like Deon Bush).
 
Pace, too, may be more willing to use that limited cap space on attempting to retain slot corner Bryce Callahan and/or right tackle Bobby Massie, while using the remaining funds to address across-the-board depth. Alternatively, Amos has earned the opportunity to cash in – if the opportunity is there – after four years of reliable, solid play on a relatively cheap rookie contract.
 
So there are plenty of questions to be answered over the next few weeks and months regarding Amos and a potentially vacant spot at safety. Whatever happens, though, Amos will approach his impending free agency with a clear head about what appears to be a cloudy future.
 
“I always come out here and give it my all,” Amos said. “This year, we were a better team. We had a lot of success on defense this year. But I feel like I’ve been pretty consistent over my years here. You have bad games here and there; you have great games here and there.
 
“Overall, I just hope my tape speaks for itself. When coaches watch my film, (people) upstairs, they see what I bring to the table as far as communication, athleticism, everything they would want to see. I hope they’ve seen it, but I can’t worry about what they did see, but it’s already happened.”