Age before beauty when it comes to Bears, elite NFL defensive coaching

John Mullin
NBC Sports Chicago

It doesn't necessarily qualify as age discrimination, maybe just more of a sorta "age-typing" around the NFL. Because the image of what makes a top offensive mind in the NFL is radically different from what's become almost a standard for defensive-coaching pedigree.

Looking for a hot offensive coach? The cliche'd expectation has become that it'll be someone young.

Putting together a ring of honor for the elite defensive minds in the NFL? Think "veteran"... VERY veteran.

Consider:

Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer this week remarked during preparations for his Vikings hosting the Denver Broncos that he was pleased that Denver coach and former Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio finally got a head-coaching berth at a time when so many top jobs have been going to the presumed hot, young offensive minds that vaulted to the top after "one-year sabbaticals."

The one-year thing refers to the fast-tracking that has happened with increased frequency in recent years - the ascensions to head coach of Adam Gase (41) with the Jets, Arizona's Kliff Kingsbury (40), Matt LaFleur (40) in Green Bay, the Bears' Matt Nagy (41), or Zac Taylor (36) in Cincinnati - after a year or two, sometimes less, as offensive coordinators. Sean McVay was 31 when the Rams hired him. Kyle Shanahan took over in San Francisco at 38.

Andy Reid at 61 looks perhaps like an outlier out there in Kansas City. But Reid was 41 when he became Donovan McNabb's head coach in Philadelphia back in 1999.

Meanwhile, for whatever reason, the image bar on defense, between head coaches or defensive coordinators, lies in the other direction - the savvy, cagy, crusty old lion: Bill Belichick (67) in New England with the NFL's No. 1 defense; Dallas ranked No. 6 on defense with coordinator Rod Marinelli (70); the Bears fourth in scoring defense under Chuck Pagano (59), who succeeded Fangio. Denver No. 7 with Fangio as head coach and Ed Donatell (62) as his defensive coordinator.

Preparing for the Los Angeles Rams' 11th-ranked defense on Sunday, Nagy this week brought up Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips (72) for recognition: "How do you not appreciate what he's done over his career? He's done some amazing things. He's been in the league forever. When he was in Denver and I was in Kansas City we've seen him. When he was in Houston and I was in Kansas City we've seen him."

Defensive legend Dick LeBeau finished his NFL coaching career with Tennessee at age 80.

So how is it that youth has come to be served on offense, while on defense, the prevailing philosophy has been age before beauty?

"I don't know," Nagy reflected. "Maybe it's just a phase that we're in right now?

"It's probably a little bit of a trend involved there. the other part of it, too, is that you get some of these older coaches that are in it, they've seen it all, right? You go back to Tom Brady when he talked about that he's seen every defense; these [defensive seniors] have seen every offense and so they have ways to adjust and experiences."

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Age before beauty when it comes to Bears, elite NFL defensive coaching originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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