May 16, 2022

Bears News

11 candidates for Bears defensive coordinator

New Bears coach Matt Eberflus will need to hire his top assistants

New England Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo gestures on the sidelines during a game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Fla.

With Matt Eberflus set to become the next Bears head coach, the attention now turns toward who he can bring in as his top assistant coaches.

The Bears will need to finalize their offensive and defensive coordinators for the 2022 season. The next defensive coordinator of the Bears will inherit a defense with several valuable pieces already in place. Pass rusher Robert Quinn and inside linebacker Roquan Smith were both second-team All-Pro performers last season.

Eberflus will, no doubt, be heavily involved in the Bears defense. He has been a defensive assistant his entire career.

Here are nearly a dozen candidates for the Bears’ defensive coordinator position.

James Bettcher, 49ers senior defensive assistant/run game specialist

Bettcher, 43, was the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants under head coach Pat Shurmur from 2018-19. He took the 2020 season off before joining San Francisco as a senior defensive assistant. Bettcher came up under Bruce Arians and interviewed for the Bears’ defensive coordinator job last year after Chuck Pagano retired.

Gus Bradley, Las Vegas Raiders defensive coordinator

Bradley, 55, was the defensive coordinator for the Raiders in 2021 after serving in the same role for the Chargers from 2017-20. He was the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2013-16, when his teams went 14-48. Plenty of teams will be interested in bringing in an experienced defensive coordinator like Bradley.

Sean Desai, Bears defensive coordinator

The best place to start might be with the man who currently has the job. Desai, 38, was a first-year defensive coordinator last season. He has worked his way up with the Bears, starting out as a defensive quality control coach in 2013. The Bears hold him in high regard. Keeping him, even under a new head coach, wouldn’t necessarily come as a shock.

Ed Donatell, Broncos defensive coordinator

Donatell, 64, served as Bears defensive backs coach from 2015-18 under coordinator Vic Fangio, then he followed Fangio to Denver. He’s on the market for a new gig, has experience in the job and has familiarity with the Bears. Donatell’s Broncos defenses were the best thing the team had going over the three Fangio years.

Vic Fangio, former Broncos head coach

After three seasons as the head coach of the Denver Broncos, Fangio probably doesn’t have much desire to go back to his old job. But it doesn’t hurt to ask. Fangio, 63, was the defensive coordinator in Chicago from 2015-18. He is reportedly interviewing for the Jacksonville Jaguars head coach position this week.

Rod Marinelli, Raiders defensive line coach

Ebeflus was the linebackers coach under Marinelli when Marinelli was the defensive coordinator in Dallas. The two worked together for five years in Dallas. With the Raiders head coach position in flux, Marinelli, 72, could be looking to make a move. He was the Bears’ defensive coordinator under Lovie Smith from 2010-12, and also previously served as the Lions head coach from 2006-08.

Jerod Mayo, Patriots inside linebackers coach

Considering that he has already interviewed for head coaching jobs, Mayo has little reason to bolt New England for a defensive coordinator position. Mayo, 35, has only three years of NFL coaching experience, but played for the Patriots from 2008-15. He has the leadership qualities that teams are looking for, but his experience in coaching is limited.

Mike Pettine, Bears senior defensive assistant

The Bears scooped up Pettine last year after the Packers fired him from their defensive coordinator position. Pettine, 55, was previously a head coach with the Cleveland Browns (2014-15). He spent one season as a senior defensive assistant for the Bears. He has been an NFL defensive coordinator for three different teams.

Jay Rodgers, Chargers outside linebackers coach/run game coordinator

Rodgers, 45, worked for the Bears as defensive line coach from 2015-20. He interviewed for the team’s defensive coordinator position last year, but the team passed on him in favor of Sean Desai. Rodgers has a ton of familiarity with the Bears defense and players.

Rob Ryan, Ravens inside linebackers coach

Ryan is the son of legendary Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan and a Stevenson High School graduate. Eberflus and Ryan worked together in Cleveland (2009-10) and in Dallas (2011-12). Both times, Ryan was the defensive coordinator and Eberflus was the linebackers coach. Ryan has been the inside linebackers coach in Baltimore for only one season after stepping away from coaching in 2020.

Joe Whitt Jr., Cowboys secondary coach/pass game coordinator

Whitt, 43, is a longtime Mike McCarthy assistant. He served as the Packers’ cornerbacks coach from 2009-17. Since then, he bounced from the Browns (2019) to the Falcons (2020) before being reunited with McCarthy in Dallas this past season.

Sean Hammond

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.