Bears coach Matt Nagy faces a difficult decision at defensive coordinator.
It's already made difficult by the fact it's a defensive hiring and his expertise has always been on offense.
If an NFL Network report is to be believed, defensive line coach Jay Rodgers and safeties coach Sean Desai are in-house candidates for the open defensive coordinator job created by the retirement of Chuck Pagano.
If Nagy makes the wrong call on hiring the next defensive coordinator, it's possible he could lose key staff members or even the bulk of the defensive staff. There would be a complete defensive system change in that case, and defensive players frequently talk about how critical system continuity is in their communication on the field, because it allows them to play faster.
The call between two coaches on staff already would be made more difficult by the fact Rodgers' contract expires next week and he has been around long enough as a successful assistant that it's possible teams with new head-coaching hires would come calling on him as a defensive coordinator.
Rodgers has repeatedly taken players with marginal talent and turned them into valuable contributors on the defensive front to complement Akiem Hicks. Nick Williams benefited last year by getting a big free-agent contract with Detroit after he'd been just a journeyman, and undrafted player with the Bears. Roy Robertson-Harris stands to benefit this year after being an undrafted free agent who played college linebacker. Brent Urban has been a valued contributor the last two seasons and was signed after being cut by Tennessee. Mario Edwards Jr. also enjoyed a productive season after being cut by New Orleans.
It only makes sense for Rodgers to be in the running for the job. He won the John Teerlinck Award for top defensive line coach in the league in 2018 and has been an NFL assistant since 2009 with Denver. He became a position coach in 2012 with the Broncos and came to the Bears in 2015 when Vic Fangio became Bears defensive coordinator under John Fox.
Desai has been with the Bears longer than Rodgers, though not in the league longer. Desai was a Bears quality control coach under Marc Trestman in 2013 and 2014, then under John Fox all three seasons he was head coach. He remained on staff when Matt Nagy took over and became safeties coach in 2019.
The Chicago Tribune reported Vic Fangio tried to take Desai to Denver in 2019 but the Bears denied Denver the chance to talk to Desai.
Curiously, Bears outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino is not being mentioned as a candidate. He is the only member of the staff with defensive coordinator experience and was brought in by Pagano in 2019 after serving as Pagano's defensive coordinator in their final two years with the Indianapolis Colts.
Former Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher is being mentioned prominently by league sources as a possible coach with interest in the job, although there is no indication he is being interviewed.
Bettcher had been a consultant for the Bears this past year when he was out of the NFL. Bettcher ran a 3-4 defense. The Giants were not overly successful with Bettcher in his two years as a defensive coordinator. They finished 24th and 25th defensively in yards allowed, while placing 23rd and 30th at preventing points.
Bettcher was Colts outside linebackers coach during 2012, the season when Bruce Arians coached much of the season while Pagano underwent treatment for leukemia. He has a connection to Nagy through his time in Arizona serving on Todd Bowles' defensive staff. Bowles and Nagy are good friends from a season together in Philadelphia.
The other Bears defensive coaches under Pagano were secondary coach Deshea Townsend, inside linebackers coach Mark DeLeone, pass rush analyst and assistant linebackers coach Bill Shuey, defensive quality control coach Shane Toub and defensive quality control coach Ronell Williams.