March 08, 2021

Here’s what we know about the Bears’ defensive coordinator search

Mike Singletary, James Bettcher, Jonathan Gannon reportedly in the running

Although teams around the NFL are hiring coordinators at a rapid pace this week, news out of Halas Hall this week has been ... slow.

The Bears haven’t yet hired a defensive coordinator to replace retired coach Chuck Pagano. News of defensive coordinator interviews, however, have trickled out of the Bears’ facility.

Here’s what we know, as of Thursday afternoon.

[Read more: With Chuck Pagano retiring, here are 11 candidates for Bears defensive coordinator]

First, the Bears reportedly have interviewed legendary linebacker Mike Singletary, according to a report from The Athletic. The 10-time Pro Bowl linebacker hasn’t coached in the NFL since 2016.

Although undoubtedly a Bears legend, Singletary never has been an NFL coordinator. In parts of three seasons as a head coach for the San Francisco 49ers, he amassed an 18-22 record between 2008 and his 2010 firing. After a stint coaching with the Minnesota Vikings, Singletary left the league for the 2014 and 2015 seasons. After expressing a desire to return, he landed a defensive assistant position with the Los Angeles Rams under his former teammate Jeff Fisher in 2016. It lasted one season before Fisher was fired.

Singletary didn’t resurface in the coaching ranks until 2018, when he took the head coaching job at Trinity Christian Academy, a high school in the Dallas area. In two seasons at the school, Singletary’s teams went 1-21. He coached the Memphis Express of the Alliance of American Football in 2019 and went 2-6 before the league folded midseason.

So the Hall of Fame player is having a rough go of it in the coaching world. What remains unclear is how seriously the Bears are considering him for a position, or if they were simply giving a team legend a chance to make his case.

[Read more: It’s not likely, but here are 3 ways the Bears could trade for Deshaun Watson]

According to a report from the NFL Network, the Bears interviewed former New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher. Bettcher served five seasons as an NFL defensive coordinator with the Arizona Cardinals from 2015 to 2017 and with the New York Giants in 2018 and 2019. He spent the 2020 season out of football.

Bettcher’s Cardinals defenses ranked in the top 10 in total yards in each of his three seasons. His move to New York proved less successful. Bettcher lost his job when Giants coach Pat Schurmer was fired after the 2019 season.

Former ESPN reporter Josina Anderson tweeted that Saints secondary coach Aaron Glenn was in the running for the Bears defensive coordinator position but has taken his name out of consideration after agreeing to become the Detroit Lions’ defensive coordinator.

Per multiple reports, the Bears also have interviewed Indianapolis Colts defensive backs/cornerbacks coach Jonathan Gannon. Gannon has worked in the NFL since 2007. He has been in his current role since 2018. He has helped coach one of the NFL’s best defenses over the past two seasons in Indianapolis.

According to the NFL Network, Gannon also has interviewed with the Los Angeles Chargers for their open defensive coordinator position.

Speaking of the Chargers, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times have reported that Bears defensive line coach Jay Rodgers is leaving for a job with the Chargers under new head coach Brandon Staley. Rodgers and Staley worked together when Staley was the Bears’ outside linebackers coach in 2017 and 2018.

It’s unclear whether Rodgers was a serious internal candidate for the Bears’ defensive coordinator position. What makes it more painful for the Bears is that it doesn’t appear Rodgers is leaving for a promotion. The Chargers still are interviewing defensive coordinator candidates. Losing a top position coach for a similar role with another team will sting.

Rodgers has been the Bears’ defensive line coach since 2015. He served under head coaches John Fox and Matt Nagy, as well as defensive coordinators Vic Fangio and Chuck Pagano.

[Read more: Underdog mindset has Bears defensive lineman Bilal Nichols ‘locked in’]

The Bears’ defensive line has been in good hands over Rodgers’ six seasons in Chicago. He helped numerous Bears defensive linemen blossom: Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Roy Robertson-Harris, Nick Williams and Bilal Nichols. Every year it seems as if the Bears produce at least one defensive lineman who goes from relative obscurity to a big contract.

Rodgers is considered one of the best position coaches at Halas Hall. A former college quarterback at Indiana, he has a well-rounded knowledge of the game and even coached quarterbacks and receivers at the college level. After the 2018 season, Rodgers earned NFL Defensive Line Coach of the Year honors at the 2019 NFL Combine.

According to the NFL Network, the Atlanta Falcons are hiring Bears passing game coordinator Dave Ragone as offensive coordinator. Ragone has worked for the Bears since 2016. He served as quarterbacks coach for four seasons before moving into his current role in 2020.

Ragone was one of the few holdovers on the offensive side of the ball from the John Fox era. He worked closely with quarterback Mitch Trubisky over his time with the Bears. Ragone will join new head coach Arthur Smith’s staff in Atlanta.

Per the NFL Network, joining Ragone in Atlanta will be Bears running backs coach Charles London, who is heading to Atlanta to become the quarterbacks coach.

That would be a notable shift for London, who has coached running backs dating to 2012 with Penn State, the Houston Texans and with the Bears since 2018.

[Read more: Hub Arkush’s 2020 Bears report card: Running backs]

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for Shaw Media. He also contributes to high school football coverage at Friday Night Drive. Sean has covered various sports at the amateur, college and professional levels since 2012. He joined Shaw Media in 2016.