First of all, I want to offer congratulations to Vic Fangio. He was a huge reason the Bears had success this past season. In a time where defensive coordinators are being passed up in favor of young, up incoming offensive minds, it’s great to see someone with so much experience and passion get the nod. Here’s hoping he finds success in his new role as Denver Broncos Head Coach.
Now, the difficult part.
It’s hard to replace someone who had such an impact on the scheme and the clubhouse. But there are some quality replacements available. So let’s take a look at some likely candidates that could take over.
1. Ed Donatell
If the Bears value continuity, Ed Donatell would be the guy. He has served as the Bears’ defensive backs coach since 2015. In that time, Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson have become All-Pros, Prince Amukamara has had his career revived and Bryce Callahan has gone from UDFA to one of the best slot corners in the league.
Donatell also has experience as a defensive coordinator. He got his first shot with the Green Bay Packers from 2000 to 2003 and then as the Falcons’ defensive coordinator from 2004 to 2006. In that time, his defense ranked as high as fifth in scoring defense and never was lower than 18th. He got another chance in 2008 as the Washington Redskins’ defensive coordinator. That season Washington finished 6th in scoring defense.
The downside to Donatell is his age (61), and it’s been more than a decade since he last called a play. The upside is he does not have head coaching aspirations at this point in his career and would be in Chicago until he retires.
2. Gregg Williams
Greg Williams served as defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns the last two seasons and interim head coach for them after they relieved Hue Jackson of his duties. As interim head coach, the Browns went 5-3 in the second half of the season.
Before Cleveland, he served as the defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints, where he famously was involved in the bounty scandal. He was announced as the defensive coordinator of the Rams but never served as he was suspended indefinitely for his role in ‘Bountygate.’
But he does have familiarity with general manager Ryan Pace, who was working in the Saints front office at the time. This could be a good or bad thing for Williams given his track record.
He would be quite a change from Fangio, as Williams is known for his aggressiveness and exotic blitzes. But he can be aggressive to a fault at times. With the talent on the Bears’ defense, they do not need to blitz to get sacks. But his resume speaks for itself and should be a strong candidate.
While he has had success in the past, would the Bears risk their team chemistry with Williams eccentric personality and past mistakes?
While Donatell and Williams are qualified for the position, the number one target to replace Fangio should be Todd Bowles.
Bowles served as the head coach of the New York Jets since 2015. He immediately found success on the defensive side of the ball calling plays for the ninth-ranked scoring defense. But it’s been all downhill since then as his defenses ranked 28th, 23rd, and 29th the last three seasons.
Bowles was most successful as the defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals in 2013 and 2014. His defenses finished seventh and fifth in scoring in his two seasons.
However, here is where it gets interesting. As the defensive coordinator in Arizona, he served under head coach Bruce Arians who was just hired as the new head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The two clearly have a good relationship and is the top choice for Arians. As of writing this, he is listed as the defensive coordinator of Tampa Bay on Wikipedia … although nothing is official.
However, Arians isn’t the only one with a Bowles connection. Nagy’s father coached Bowles when he was in high school. Additionally, when Nagy was Philadelphia’s offensive quality control coach in 2012, Bowles served as their secondary coach and interim defensive coordinator.
Matt Nagy on Todd Bowles back in October:
"I have so much respect for him, 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. https://t.co/ylbr4CIGxX
— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) January 9, 2019
So, it comes down to Tampa Bay and Chicago. Tampa Bay might have the edge in terms of weather. But in terms of talent, it’s not even close. If Bowles wants another shot at being a head coach in this league, it would behoove him to come to Chicago and coach the best defense in the league.
But that is the biggest issue with Bowles. If hired, will the Bears be in the same boat next season?
Losing Fangio isn’t ideal, but there are worthy candidates out there and with the Bears talent on the defensive side of the ball, the defense shouldn’t miss a beat. After all, coaching is important but talent wins out in this league.
Due to the Bears’ talent, as well as the team success they enjoyed this season, Chicago should have its pick of the litter.
There is not a more attractive job in all of sports right now than defensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears.