Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano retires: 'It has been an amazing ride'

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Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano retires originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Bears will at least need a new defensive coordinator in 2021.

After a long and well respected career in both college football and the NFL, Chuck Pagano has decided to retire after spending two seasons with the Chicago Bears. The Athletic was first to report the news Tuesday evening.

"After 36 years of coaching the game I love, I have decided to retire from the National Football League. I’d like to sincerely thank the McCaskey family, Ted Phillips, Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy for the opportunity to be a part of such an amazing organization," Pagano said in a statement. "Also, many thanks to the Irsay family and the Colts organization. I am forever grateful to that community and to the support they have always given me both on and off the field. I’d also like to thank all the coaches, players and staff throughout my career. Thank you will never be enough to express my gratitude.

“As much as I love coaching, it takes a lot of time away from your family and loved ones," Pagano continued. "I’m excited to start this new chapter of my life and can’t wait to be able to spend more time with my family. This has been an amazing ride and I have made countless relationships that I will cherish forever.”

Bears head coach Matt Nagy said Pagano informed him of his decision Tuesday morning. 

"I did not know Chuck at all prior to these last two years, and what he’s brought to us and what he’s taught us, everybody in our family here, is second to none," Nagy said. "He's sacrificed, his family’s sacrificed so much for him and now it’s time for him to sacrifice for them. He’s at total peace with it and so I just think again, thank you Coach, for that, and he’s gonna be a great grandad and enjoy that family time."

Pagano took over the defense in 2019 after former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was hired as the Denver Broncos' head coach. He took over a unit that ranked No. 1 in Football Outsiders' defensive DVOA in 2018, but fell to No. 10 in 2019 before improving slightly to No. 8 in 2020. The pass rush and takeaway numbers both declined under Pagano after reaching historical levels in 2018.

Pagano, 60, spent nearly four decades coaching football, starting as a graduate assistant at USC in 1984. After a successful run coaching defensive backs at the University of Miami in the late-1990s, Pagano jumped to the NFL with the Cleveland Browns in 2001 and eventually rose to be the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 2012. He went 56-46 as the Colts' head coach, including a 3-3 record in the playoffs. He was fired after the 2017 season and spent 2018 out of football before the Bears hired him. 

As for the next Bears defensive coordinator, Nagy said:

"(That) is something that we obviously take very seriously and it’s going to be very thorough. In my short career as a head coach, I’ve learned a lot of different things as I grow. One of them is, you’re put in this role to make decisions with the hires and the fires. So right now in this time with Chuck leaving and retiring, this is going to be a very important hire. We have a lot of great guys internally on staff and obviously people outside as well, so that’s a big process. I look forward to it and I think that we’ll get on that here ASAP."

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