Bears

What can the Bears expect from new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano?

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USA TODAY

What can the Bears expect from new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano?

From a talent perspective, Chuck Pagano is walking into an ideal situation for his first gig as a defensive coordinator in eight years.

The Bears have only three members of their best-in-the-league 2018 unit hitting free agency: Slot corner Bryce Callahan, safety Adrian Amos and outside linebacker Aaron Lynch. Callahan and Amos are both starters, but focusing on them too much may miss the point.

Returning to the Bears in 2019: Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd, Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith, Kyle Fuller, Eddie Jackson and Prince Amukamara. Depth pieces like Roy Robertson-Harris and Sherrick McManis played well, too, when they were on the field in 2018.

So the most important thing to note with the hiring of Pagano, which the Bears announced Friday night, is the wealth of talent with which he’ll have to work. He’s coached talent before — like when he was the Baltimore Ravens’ defensive coordinator in 2011, a team that featured future Hall of Famers in Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs, as well as an All-Pro in Haloti Ngata.

And here’s what Pagano said prior to that 2011 season, when he was promoted from being the Ravens’ defensive backs coach to defensive coordinator:

"They’ve been playing great defense here long before any of us got here, and they’ll be playing great defense long after I’m gone," Pagano said. "They’ve always been an attacking, swarming, tough, physical, hard-nosed group of men that has great passion. And so my philosophy is their philosophy. Let’s go out and wreak havoc and play Ravens defense, just the way they’ve played for many, many years around here."

One would imagine Pagano will take a similar approach to replacing Vic Fangio as the coordinator of this Bears’ defense, even if he’s an external hire.

While Pagano’s defenses in Indianapolis never finished higher than 13th in DVOA during his six-year stint with the Colts, he engendered plenty of respect from players during his time there. Linebacker Jerrell Freeman — who played for Pagano in Indianapolis and Fangio in Chicago — tweeted on Friday:

Were those Colts defenses the product of years of mismanagement by general manager Ryan Grigson, who took only one defensive player with a first-round pick during Pagano’s tenure (and it was defensive end Bjoern Werner, who lasted only three years in the league)? Or was Pagano culpable as the head coach? Or was it somewhere in between? What lessons did he learn from his time as a head coach that he can apply to his second stint as a defensive coordinator?

We’ll start to know the answers to those questions in the coming weeks, months and years. But for now, Pagano also seems to fit the sort of culture Matt Nagy has worked to established over the last year, something the coach pointed to in a statement released in announcing the hire.

“We are excited to add Chuck to our staff as defensive coordinator,” Nagy said. “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. 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.”

Back when Pagano was hired by the Colts in 2012, one of his former players with the Ravens vouched for how much he cares about the guys he coaches. For someone replacing Fangio, who was wildly popular inside Halas Hall, that counts for something.

"What makes him good? He relates to the players a whole lot," defensive end Cory Redding said "He's almost like a player in a D-coordinator's position. The guy has so much fun with us. He treats you like more than a player. It's like we're his sons. He wants us to do well. He keeps it fresh. He knows everybody's strengths and puts them in position to make plays."

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It sounds like Jay Cutler is bored in retirement

It sounds like Jay Cutler is bored in retirement

After a week off the air, “Very Cavallari” was back with a new episode, which meant more Jay Cutler in retirement.

This week we were treated to Cutler being as sarcastic as ever and sulking about having nothing to do. Cutler’s first scene involved him and his wife, Kristin Cavallari, talking about their relationship and spending time with each other. Cavallari is going to do another pop-up shop for her fashion store, which means more travel. Jay, your thoughts?

“Oh, great,” Cutler said with his trademark sarcasm.

Later in the conversation we get a bleak look into Jay Cutler post-football.

“I just hang out and clean up,” Cutler said.

Sounds like he may want to hit up the announcing gig he had lined up before coming out of retirement and heading to the Dolphins for the 2017 season.

Next, we got Cutler shopping for birthday presents for their 3-year-old daughter. If nothing else, this was amusing to see Cutler shopping for gifts for little girls.

Watch the video above to see all of the best of Cutty, which also features him designing jewelry for some reason.

Recalling Chet Coppock – snapshots of a character, who also had character

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NBC Sports Chicago

Recalling Chet Coppock – snapshots of a character, who also had character

The news that came out Thursday, that Chet Coppock had died from injuries suffered in an automobile accident earlier this month in Florida, was sad on so many levels. That you didn’t have a chance to say “good-bye,” that you didn’t have a chance to say “thank you,” that you won’t have more of “those” kinds of Chet moments.

But one of my favorite movie moments is at the end of “The Last Samurai” when Tom Cruise, the wounded ex-U.S. soldier who’d fought with the Samurai, is asked by the young Japanese emperor about the death of Ken Watanabe’s Samurai character Katsumoto, “Tell me how he died.” To which Cruise says, “I will tell you, how he lived.”

Somehow that’s the feeling thinking about Chet – little fun snapshots of how he lived.

Snapshots like listening to Coppock on Sports, and appreciating that Chet deserves a spot in the pantheon of those who created a genre.

Like how we in the media laughed imitating Chet’s questions, which routinely went on long enough for you to run out for a sandwich and be back before he was finished. But the chuckle was how Chet wouldn’t directly ask a guest, “So why did you make THAT idiotic play?” No, Chester had this tack of, “So, what would you say to those who would say, ‘You’re an idiot?’” Of course, it would take a minimum of two minutes for him to wend his way through the question, but the results were always worth waiting for.

Like “Your dime, your dance floor.” 

Like grabbing lunches with Chet while I was working on the ’85 Bears book, but in particular while I was writing “100 Greatest Chicago Sports Arguments.” The specific in the latter told me a lot about Chet, far beyond just the information he was sharing.

The “argument” was over who was the greatest Chicago play-by-play broadcaster. Now, Chet of course suggested tongue-in-cheek that he belonged in the discussion; after all, as he pointed out, a high school kid at New Trier games, sitting by himself in the stands, doing play-by-play into a “microphone” that was one of those cardboard rollers from bathroom tissue, oughta be worth something.

Chet’s nomination for the actual No. 1 was Jack Brickhouse, the WGN legend who Chet noted had done play-by for every conceivable sport.

But the reason for Chet’s vote for Brickhouse wasn’t about any of that. It was, Chet said, because Brickhouse beginning back in the mid-‘50s, when the Cubs were integrating with Gene Baker and Ernie Banks, had very intentionally made it clear with his broadcasting and behavior that Baker and Banks were “Cubs,” not “black Cubs.” Brickhouse’s principles had left an impression on a then-young Chet.

I hadn’t known any of that. But Chet did, and that he had taken a lasting impression from what he’d heard growing up said something about Chet as well as Jack. That impressed me, and frankly has always been my favorite Chet story.

So losing an institution like Chet is sad; Chet did say that, no, he wasn’t an institution, but rather that he belonged IN one. But at least he came our way.