LAKE FOREST — That didn’t take long.
Just a day after losing their defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who was hired as the Broncos’ head coach on Thursday, the Bears tabbed Chuck Pagano to replace him Friday night.
“We are excited to add Chuck to our staff as defensive coordinator,” Bears head coach Matt Nagy said in a statement. “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.”
The 58-year-old Pagano did not coach in 2018 but worked as an NFL consultant.
He was the Colts’ head coach for the previous six years (2012-17), when they compiled a 53-43 regular-season record and a 3-3 mark in the playoffs. He led the Colts to three straight playoff appearances from 2012-14, including AFC South Division titles in 2013 and 2014, and an appearance in the 2014 AFC championship game.
Pagano’s first season with the Colts was one of the more memorable in NFL history.
After just three games, he was forced to step away from the team after being diagnosed with leukemia. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians stepped in as the interim head coach and led the Colts to a 9-3 record and a wild-card berth. Pagano came back after missing 12 weeks and led the Colts to a win over the Texans in their season finale to finish with an 11-5 record.
Pagano’s battle with leukemia led him to form the Chuckstrong Foundation, which has raised more than $4.7 million for continued cancer research.
The Colts’ best season under Pagano came in 2014, when he guided the team to 11 wins, capped by an appearance in the AFC title game, the team’s first since 2009. Defensively, the Colts ranked seventh in the AFC against the pass. S Mike Adams tied for the NFL lead in takeaways (seven), while cornerback Vontae Davis tied for third in the league in passes defensed (18) as the two earned their first career Pro Bowl selections.
Pagano has 16 years of NFL coaching experience. Before joining the Colts, he spent four seasons with the Ravens (2008-11), the first three as defensive backs coach and the last as defensive coordinator. Pagano became just the second head coach in NFL history to register at least 11 wins in each of his first three seasons with a team and became the third head coach in Colts history to reach the playoffs in each of his first three years.
During his four seasons in Baltimore, Pagano’s defenses allowed the second-fewest points per game and the second-fewest net yards in the NFL. The Ravens also ranked third in the NFL in scoring defense during that span.
In 2011 as coordinator, Pagano’s crew finished third in the NFL in total defense, second against the run and fourth against the pass on its way to the AFC championship game. The Ravens also led the league in forced fumbles (21) and had the third-most sacks in the NFL (48.0). Pagano spent 18 years as a college coach before moving to the NFL.
Pagano takes over a Bears defense that led the NFL in takeaways (36), interceptions (27), fewest rushing yards allowed (80.0 per game), fewest points per game (17.7), lowest opponents’ passer rating (72.9) and three-and-out percentage (26.8). The Bears defense was also No. 3 in total yards allowed (299.7) and in sacks (50).