The Chicago Bears have been wheeling and dealing over recent days as they secure their coaching staff for the 2015 season, and Grizzly Detail has a recap of which men have been hired to lead the Bears as they attempt to rebuild a bloodied and beaten organization.
John Fox – Head Coach
Formerly the head man with the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos, Fox brings considerable NFL experience to the table. He is a defensive guru with a track record of turning teams’ performance around quickly when he goes to a new city. The Panthers went from a 1-15 record in the season before his arrival to a Super Bowl berth just two seasons later, and the Broncos went from 4-12 in the season before his arrival to going 46-18 in his four years in the Mile High City.
Fox has a reputation as a tough locker room disciplinarian, and that is something the Bears desperately need after the in-fighting and squabbles that were the rule of the day under Marc Trestman. Fox brings instant credibility and a no nonsense approach to things, and that’s exactly what the Bears were looking for in a new boss.
Fox is also known for putting together good coaching staffs, and three coaches who served under him have gone on to become NFL head coaches. Two of those, Jack Del Rio (Oakland Raiders) and Mike McCoy (San Diego Chargers) are still in the league.
Vic Fangio – Defensive Coordinator
There are some that will argue that Fangio is the best defensive coordinator in the NFL, and there is plenty to back up that assertion. Fangio spent the last four seasons with the San Francisco 49’ers serving as defensive coordinator under former head coach Jim Harbaugh, and under his tutelage the team’s defense was among the most fearsome in the league. With stars like Patrick Willis, Navarro Bowman, and Justin Smith, Fangio blended 3-4 concepts with 4-3 looks on the front end of his defense, and his secondary was a constant threat to the passing game of opposing teams.
That hybrid mix of fronts, as well as his penchant for blunt honesty and ability to get the most out of his players, makes Fangio an ideal fit. The Bears are going to need a lot of work on the defensive side of the ball, and the Fangio model is a good blueprint to start with.
Jeff Rodgers – Special Teams Coordinator
Rodgers was one of the coaches that Fox brought over from the Broncos, and he will have a big task on his hands as he tries to reshape the group left by former coordinator Joe Decamillis.
In Rodgers’ four years in Denver, the Broncos’ special teams unit finished in the top 10 in numerous categories. They were 10th in the league during that time in gross punting average (45.6 yards per punt), second in kick return touchdowns (six), and they ranked ninth in kickoff return average (24.5 yards per kick).
In coming to the Bears, Rodgers will have a tall order on his hands. Pat O’Donnell was one of the worst punters in the NFL last season, finishing with an average of 43.8 yards per punt. The Bears as a team only averaged 5.2 yards per punt return in 2014 as well.
Sam Garnes – Assistant Defensive Backs Coach
The Bears had a heck of a time keeping healthy cornerbacks on the field in the 2014 season, but even when they did, their pass coverage left something to be desired. The team was 30th in the league in passing yards against, allowing 264.4 yards per game through the air, and rookie Kyle Fuller fizzled after a strong start as he was beaten up by guys like Jordy Nelson and Calvin Johnson during the year.
That’s where Garnes comes in. In the 2014 season with the Broncos, their defense ranked ninth in the league in pass defense, allowing 225.4 yards per game, and the team was loaded with secondary stalwarts that received Pro Bowl recognition. Safety T.J. Ward was one of those players, and cornerbacks Chris Harris, Jr. and Aqib Talib were both selected to play in Arizona as well.
Garnes first coached with Fox in the 2010 season when both men were in Carolina. Garnes then joined Fox in Denver with the Broncos for the 2011 season, and he’s spent the last four seasons in his current role.
Dave Magazu – Offensive Line Coach
The Bears’ offensive line was one of the team’s biggest strengths in the 2013 season, but the 2014 season was another matter altogether. The injuries to guys like Roberto Garza and Matt Slauson didn’t help things, but Jordan Mills showed little to no improvement against the pass rush, and Jermon Bushrod struggled at times as well. Kyle Long was a bright spot, but there are even questions about him as debate rages on whether he should be moved from guard to tackle.
Under Magazu’s guidance, the line should improve considerably. During his four seasons in Denver, the Broncos allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL, only allowing 100 total in four years. They only allowed 17 total sacks in the 2014 season, and while a good amount of credit for that has to go to Adam Gase and Peyton Manning for getting the ball out quickly, the line was also solid in the running game, with C.J. Anderson emerging as a bonafide running threat last year.
Derius Swinton II – Assistant Special Teams Coach
Swinton will be backing up Rodgers as they try to resurrect the Bears’ bad special teams unit, and he will have quite a big task on his hands. Injures on both sides of the ball over the last two years have meant that the Bears have had to rely increasingly on young players to man the important special teams positions, and Decamillis simply didn’t get the job done.
Swinton has six years of NFL coaching experience, and spent the last two seasons with Rodgers in Denver. He also coached with the Kansas City Chiefs before the arrival of former Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub, and under his guidance the team had a Pro Bowl season from punter Dustin Colquitt.