NFL: Bears’ Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano Has a Soft Spot for Indianapolis

The Chicago Bears have a new defensive coordinator in Chuck Pagano. Pagano has prior head coaching experience with the Indianapolis Colts. Despite the Colts firing Pagano for not getting them to the next level, he holds no ill will toward the city or organization. 

Let’s take a closer look at exactly why Chuck Pagano has a soft spot for Indianapolis. 

Chuck Pagano’s career overview

Pagano is currently in his first year as Chicago Bears’ defensive coordinator. He has previous coordinator and head coaching experience elsewhere

  • From 2012-2017, he was the head coach of the Colts. His guided Indy to a 54-43 regular-season record, going 3-3 in the postseason. He won two AFC South Division titles and got the Colts as far as the AFC Championship in 2014, where they fell to the New England Patriots. 
  • From 2008-2011, Pagano served as the defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens. During his tenure, the Ravens allowed the second-fewest points per game with 16.3 and the second-fewest net yards per game with 292.3. Their best season under Pagano was 2011 when they allowed 288.9 yards per game – third overall in the league. 
  • Pagano spent one season (2007) as the University of North Carolina’s defensive coordinator. 
  • Pagano also served as a position coach for the Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns, and the University of Miami. 

Pagano’s stint as the Colts’ head coach was his highest-profile coaching gig. He had one memorable season in particular that provided him with a soft spot for the city and fan base. 

Chuck Pagano’s history with Indianapolis

During training camp in his first season as Colts head coach, Pagano began to feel extreme fatigue. He also noticed heavy bruises on his body despite not knowing where they came from. After the team urged him to see a doctor, Pagano was informed he had a treatable form of leukemia. Pagano would spend much of the season receiving treatment. 

Under interim coach Bruce Arians, the team would qualify for a postseason berth at which time a recovered Pagano took control of the team. 

According to a ProFootballTalk report, the support the city showed Pagano has stuck with him to this day:  

“I was only there a short time before I was diagnosed,” Pagano said, via Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune. “For that city and that community, the organization, to embrace me and support me and my whole family through that journey, it just speaks to that Hoosier hospitality. Living it like we lived it was truly amazing. Because they didn’t have to do that. But it just speaks to [that] there’s a lot more good in this world than bad. Really, really good people, and I was fortunate to be where I was at the time.”

During this past offseason, the Bears and Colts organizations came together for a Pagano-organized cancer research fundraiser. Pagano’s former boss and current Colts owner Robert Irsay donated $1 million. 

How Chuck Pagano and the Bears’ defense look in 2019

Last season, the Bears had one of the NFL’s best defenses. They allowed 299.7 yards per game, good for third in the league. They allowed 219.1 yards passing (seventh overall) and led the league with only 80.0 yards rushing. Their defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio, accepted the Denver Broncos head coaching position, clearing the way for Pagano to assume control of the Bears’ defense. 

Pagano inherits a defense with several big-name playmakers including Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, and Kyle Fuller. Without the responsibilities of head coaching to concern him, Pagano will be able to focus specifically on the defense. The last time he was able to do that in Baltimore, the results were good. If the Bears were in a rebuilding phase, Pagano might have a more difficult time recreating last season’s results. But with the talent he has in place, Pagano is in good shape to lead the Bears to yet another great defensive season.