Here are the candidates that could replace Vic Fangio as the Bears' defensive coordinator

Here are the candidates that could replace Vic Fangio as the Bears' defensive coordinator

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:

Inside Hires

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: 

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. 

Ex-Head Coaches

Todd Bowles
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. 

Steve Wilks 
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?

Vance Joseph
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. 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Is the Robbie Gould Bears reunion realistic?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Is the Robbie Gould Bears reunion realistic?

David Haugh, Ben Finfer and JJ Stankevitz join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- Robbie Gould wants the 49ers to trade him. Will the dream of Bears fans come true? David Haugh thinks his departure three years ago might make a reunion difficult.

12:30- Tony Andracki joins Kap from Wrigley to preview the Cubs-Dodgers series opener. They discuss Jose Quintana's recent success, the need to keep Jason Heyward in the every day lineup and talk about Kris Bryant's struggles.

17:30- The panel discusses the Cubs' lineup for Game 1 with the Dodgers and if Pedro Strop is one of the three greatest relievers in Cubs history.

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast


As NFL Draft looms, anything is possible for Ryan Pace and the Bears

As NFL Draft looms, anything is possible for Ryan Pace and the Bears

Ryan Pace’s pre-draft press conference began with the Bears’ general manager dryly referring to it as “always fun,” which elicited a round of chuckles from the assembled media at Halas Hall. Two days before the NFL Draft commences in Nashville, there’s no chance Pace is going to publicly tip his hand for what he’s planning to do later in the week. Fun, right?

Pace did tip one thing, though: When the 24th pick comes around — the first of the two first-round picks the Bears shipped to the Raiders last Labor Day weekend — he’ll pull up highlights of Khalil Mack in Halas Hall’s high-tech new draft room. Consider it a welcome reminder of why Pace doesn't have a first-round pick and might as well hook a Nintendo 64 up to the digital draft board and challenge anyone in the building to MarioKart on Thursday night (if this is possible, Toad on Koopa Troopa Beach is always a winner). 

While the Bears won’t be on the clock until pick No. 87 in the third round (last year’s trade to move back into the second round to draft Anthony Miller is also why), Pace said the pressure on him remains the same as it was the last four years, when he made four selections in the first nine picks of those drafts. So that’s one aspect of this year’s draft that won’t change. 

Another: The Bears aren’t going to switch their philosophy to drafting for the few needs a 12-4 team coming off a division title has. For Pace, the reasoning is twofold: First, he’s always been a best-player-available guy; second, he doesn’t see any truly glaring needs on his roster. 

“We feel fortunate with our roster right now,” Pace said. “This press conference feels a little different in that there's no pressing, huge needs. We can honestly select the best players. That's a great spot to be in.”

That’s not to say the Bears don’t have any needs. Another running back, a reserve receiver, a backup tight end, cornerbacks and safeties for the future — those are all needs. Teams can never have too many offensive linemen, defensive linemen and edge rushers. 

Of those, though, the only position with a path to a starting/prominent role on offense or defense may be running back. Even then, Pace said Mike Davis — who the Bears signed in March — is “built to handle a lot of carries,” so if a running back is drafted the expectation will be for him to be part of a rotation, not necessarily a true No. 1 starter-type. 

“Right now, I know running back's been talked about a lot, but we feel good about that position,” Pace said. “We feel good about Tarik (Cohen), we feel really good about Mike Davis, we feel good about Ryan Nall and we feel good about Cordarrelle Patterson and the things he can do out of the backfield.

“… I think there's probably always a storyline with every draft. I understand why it's that way, but I don't feel like we go into this draft saying, 'Man, we have to take this position or we're in trouble.' We're in good shape.”

So consider this another intentionally-murky statement by Pace in this pre-draft press conference. The Bears probably need to take a running back, but he’s not going to say that and tip his hand or paint himself into a corner three days before he actually gets to make a pick. 

(That Pace mentioned Nall, a 2018 undrafted free agent who spent last year on the practice squad, by name was at least interest-piquing.)

So as Pace took questions on Tuesday, most of the answers were some variation of “sure, it’s possible.” Trading down? Sure, it’s possible. Trading up? Sure, it’s possible — though not into the first round. Drafting a quarterback? Sure, it’s possible. A kicker? Sure, it’s possible. Not drafting a running back? Sure, it’s possible. 

We’ll have a complete picture of what Pace was actually thinking come Saturday evening. But while he didn’t reveal much on Tuesday, and doesn’t have much draft capital with which to work, this draft is important. The Bears can find players for the present and future — when their roster will be more expensive — starting on Friday night. And hitting on a few of these picks will be critical for keeping the Bears’ window to win open as long as possible. 

“If we take a player where we happen to have a lot of depth right now, but it’s a good player, that’s okay,” Pace said. “I think it’s short-sighted to say, ‘well, this guy might be able to play a little bit quicker so let’s take him.’ Let’s just take the best player. If that means it takes a little bit longer for him to play, let’s just make sure we take the best guy.”