Today the Bears got to see up close and personal what the ugly side of being a good team looks like.
With Wednesday morning's news that defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is headed off to Denver to be the next coach of the Broncos, the Bears are suddenly faced with replacing one of the most valuable members of their franchise.
Though talent won't be an issue on the defensive side of the ball next year, Fangio's experience as one of the game's great defensive coordinators played a vital role in turning that unit into one of the league's best since 2015.
Now that he's gone, Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy's first major thing to check off their offseason to-do list is find his replacement. Here are a few names worth looking at:
Ed Donatell - Bears Secondary Coach
Donatell seems to be the consensus next man up, though there's a wrinkle to this: the Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs is reporting that Donatell is out of a contract, so it might not be as easy as a simple promotion. Perhaps he leaves with Fangio and becomes Denver's defensive coordinator? With that said, it sounds like Fangio might not get to make many personnel decisions after all:
Mike Florio says that while Mike Munchak may be the favorite in Denver, Vic Fangio is "so hell-bent" on being a head coach, he's willing to do whatever John Elway wants, including letting Elway pick his staff. Listen: https://t.co/tJn6KQF40G— Dan Bernstein Show (@Bernstein670) January 9, 2019
If he stays, Donatell makes a great deal of sense for the Bears. His unit ended up as Pro Football Focus' top-ranked secondary, and the way he was able to bring the best out of lesser-known guys like Sherrick McManis, Bryce Callahan and Adrian Amos speaks well to his coaching abilities.
Jay Rodgers - Bears D-Line Coach
Rodgers was one of the masterminds behind a Bears front seven that also ranked in Pro Football Focus' Top 5. He's been with the Bears for four seasons now and has managed to get Akiem Hicks to the Pro Bowl and Eddie Goldman paid. Roy Robertson Harris and Bilal Nichols even had their moments this year, too. For what it's worth, linebackers coach Glen Pires will also be a strong internal candidate, and one who comes with more defensive coaching experience than Rodgers.
It was assumed that Bowles was headed to Tampa Bay to join Bruce Arians' staff, but I guess not? Bowles is apparently choosing between Tampa and Chicago:
Matt Nagy and Bowles also go way back. Here's what the Bears head coach had to say about him back in October:
"I have so much respect for him," he said. "What he does defensively, but on top of that, too, I think he’s such a great human being. He does things the right way. He treats people the right way. I like how he does things."
UPDATED: Bowles is headed to Tampa Bay after all, sorry for making you read all of that first.
Wilks got the short end of the stick in Arizona, getting fired after only one year with an abysmal roster and a rookie quarterback. Wilks is already familiar with Halas Hall, as he served as the Bears' defensive backs coach from 2006-2008. He's also served as a defensive coach for a handful of other NFL teams and Power-5 college programs. Wilks deserves another shot at head coaching, so maybe repairing your coaching rep using one of the NFL's best defenses may not be a bad idea?
If anything, Fangio and Joseph switching teams would provide for some excellent #narrative. Joseph has DC experience, though, after stops in Miami, San Fran, Cincinnati, and Houston. He might be a bit out of the Bears' range, though, as reports suggest he might be in line for one or two of the NFL's current head coaching vacancies.
Hires out of left field
If the Bears want to get weird with this, there's always the Left Field hire. Could they bring in a well-regarded but lesser-known staffer from another team? Baltimore and Buffalo both have had strong defenses that almost certainly have up-and-comming candidates. Could the Bears throw some money at Ravens DC Don Martindale or Bills DC Leslie Frazier? Getting Kris Richard out of Dallas could be a huge coup. It'd be splashy, but Kliff Kingsbury just failed up into an NFL job, so crazier things have happened.