With all the excitement and tumult surrounding the Bears’ 2021 draft, it’s easy to lose sight of the most immediate and important question facing them.
If Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace have to win now to save their jobs and win back the support of their fans, just how are they going to get that done?
It seems most likely the heaviest weight will be on the backs of the defense trying to reclaim its 2018 pedigree as the best in the league.
But can it be done with a near total overhaul of the defensive coaching staff and the loss of an All Pro cornerback?
New defensive coordinator Sean Desai has just eight years of experience as an NFL coach, with just two as a position coach.
New defensive line coach Chris Rumph has 18 years as a college coach but just one in the NFL. Inside linebackers coach Bill McGovern has 27 years in college, seven in the NFL. Outside linebackers coach Bill Shuey had 10 years with the Eagles, but just three as a position coach, and this will be his first season as a position coach here. And new assistant defensive backs/safeties coach Mike Adams is a rookie.
And they’re following on the heels of two somewhat legendary coordinators in Vic Fangio and Chuck Pagano.
I asked Desai on Wednesday how he hopes to make his defense new and improved.
“I hope you guys are able to write about a month into the season and hold me to this,” Desai said. “I think hopefully … I don’t want to say it’s new because we’ve had this here in my time here, but hopefully it’s just a rekindled kind of spirit and a rekindled energy that everybody is gonna feel.
“I want this defense to be palpable. Whether you’re a football fan or not, you’re gonna feel this defense physically and emotionally, and I think that’s something we’re hoping to hang our hats on.”
It seems clear to achieve his vision the two most pivotal things Desai will have to orchestrate are getting more out of outside linebacker Robert Quinn and successfully replacing cornerback Kyle Fuller.
“Kind of get him comfortable in what he likes to do as long as it fits within the defense,” Quinn said. “We want to generate more pressure, whether it’s QB pressures and obviously that ultimately leads to sacks and all that stuff. But it’s not just him.”
Clearly Quinn is the one guy though who can have the biggest impact, making life easier on Khalil Mack and the entire secondary, not just one cornerback.
Shuey, Quinn’s position coach, has a plan.
“He would be the first to tell you that his production last year would not measure up to his standards, so first and foremost he needs to take care of his body and be ready to go,” Shuey said. “I think there are some subtleties into his game that we can look into. ...
“My job would be to make sure he’s put in a position where he can make more plays, and I think he’s looking forward to doing that. I also think it’s going to be balancing out the reps and the timeliness of getting him into games in the right situations where he can be at his best.”
If Quinn is piling up sacks and Fuller’s replacement is holding down the fort, then all eyes will turn back to Desai and the job he is doing running the defense in games.
Does Rumph, his new D-line coach, think Desai’s ready?
“Well, I think the first thing that you notice is his organization, his ability to communicate and get his point across, and also his willingness to listen to different ideas and to really think things through,” Rumph said. “So I think just the organization, his intelligence, the way he communicates is unbelievable.”
By mid-October while all eyes are still on fixing the offense and the quarterback position, will the Bears defense still have them contending and winning games?
It’s a huge undertaking for Desai and company, time has run out on all the “new guy orientation,” and the hard work is under way right now.