Unlike the breakdown of the offensive staff where a few coaches had already been confirmed, the defense is a completely open book with not a single coach currently on staff. This can ultimately shake out in two ways:
Scenario 1: Vic Fangio returns as defensive coordinator along with most of his position coaches as many of them followed Fangio from San Francisco to Chicago in 2015.
- DC – Vic Fangio
- DL – Jay Rodgers
- ILB – Glenn Pires
- OLB – Brandon Staley
- DB – Ed Donatell
- Asst. DB – Roy Anderson
Scenario 2: Fangio doesn’t return. This would leave the Bears with no defensive staff whatsoever.
DC – James Bettcher
While Bettcher still has a year left on his contract with the Cardinals, Mike Jurecki of “The Blitz” reported that the Bears have contacted the Cardinals about interviewing the 39-year-old defensive coordinator. The Cardinals finished in the top 10 in total defense for each of his three seasons as Arizona’s defensive coordinator (5th, 2nd, 7th). Bettcher would provide a drastic departure from Vic Fangio’s overall conservative approach to defense. Bettcher lives by the blitz and dies by the blitz much like his mentor, Todd Bowles.
Losing Fangio would be a blow to the continuity Chicago established with a rapidly improving defense over the past three seasons, but Bettcher’s track record of success and aggressive nature have led many to believe that he may be an improvement over Fangio.
However, even if the Bears do manage to pry Bettcher away from the Cardinals, he would likely be interviewing for a head coaching gig in the near future. He likely wouldn’t be a “one and done” like Adam Gase in 2015, but if Bettcher is the guy, a successor must be selected in place through his position coaches.
(Should Bettcher fall through, Chuck Pagano and Jack Del Rio are both candidates who could take the defense off of Nagy’s hands, but they are unquestionably a lower tier than Fangio and Bettcher)
DL – Brentson Buckner
As will often be the case with tag-alongs from Bettcher’s staff in Arizona, Buckner not only has coaching experience, but playing experience as well. He played for 12 seasons, recorded 31 sacks, and appeared in two Super Bowls throughout his playing career.
Much like Arizona’s defense as a whole, Buckner’s track record looks very good. He helped Calais Campbell reach his first two Pro Bowls, and coached up a front that has been stout against the run since Buckner joined the Cardinals staff in 2013.
ILB – Larry Foote
Like Buckner, Foote was a former NFL player best known for winning two championships with the Steelers in 2005 and 2008. Foote played for the Cardinals for one season in 2014 before becoming an assistant linebackers coach in 2015 and then an inside linebackers coach in 2016.
Like Buckner, the defenses that Foote has helped coach are statistically excellent, and his playing experience could help him mold Nick Kwiatkoski into a staple of the Bears’ core defense.
OLB – Mike Caldwell
If I had to designate one of these assistants as the one who would succeed Bettcher, it would most likely be Caldwell. When it comes to being connected to the Bears and their staff, Caldwell couldn’t be in a better spot. He played for the Bears in 2002, coached with Nagy as a member the from 2008-2012 with the Eagles, and coached with Bettcher in 2014.
Caldwell opted to follow Todd Bowles to the Jets in 2015 where he was made the assistant head coach and linebackers coach. However, the Bears job would give him an inside track at rising to defensive coordinator within the next three seasons whereas sticking with Bowles could lead to him getting fired after 2018 considering where the Jets roster stands.
DB – Al Harris
In a shocking twist, Harris also played a long career in the NFL in which he amassed 21 interceptions throughout his 14-year career.
After playing for Andy Reid from 1998 through 2002, Harris joined up with his former coach as a secondary assistant in 2013. After helping coach Marcus Peters in Kansas City, Harris would likely provide plenty of great insight to the younger defensive backs on the Bears like Deiondre’ Hall and Cre’Von LeBlanc.
Asst. DB – Kevin Ross
I’m sure you all saw this one coming, and you’re right, Ross is another player coach that would likely tag along with Bettcher should he head to Chicago. The Pro Bowl corner nabbed 38 career interceptions and holds a place in Kansas City’s “Ring of Honor.”
Like Buckner and Foote, Ross was brought on the Cardinals staff in 2013 where he helped coach a number of statistically strong defenses. The Bears aren’t known a lot for being physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage which has made some blitzes more difficult to execute. Considering Bettcher’s tendency to send pressure, having a coach who knows bump and run coverage could prove invaluable to the Bears.
It’ll be interesting to see how it all unfolds, but if either of these two scenarios pan out, the Chicago Bears’ defense will be in good hands. If you have any coaching suggestions, or want to comment on mine, feel free to do so below!