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Chicago Bears Make Smart Decision Hiring Mike Pettine as Senior Defensive Assistant

It didn’t take long to see the Bears’ mistakes as the 2020 NFL season played out

Quarterback Nick Foles never played like a Super Bowl MVP. Free-agent acquisition Robert Quinn didn’t come close to becoming a double-digit-sack edge rusher. Wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. wasn’t a deep threat or a factor on offense.

The Bears continued this trend of bad moves when they retained general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy for next season. To the Bears’ credit, though, they have made some decent moves, including promoting safeties coach Sean Desai to defensive coordinator after Chuck Pagano retired. 

And when the Bears announced they hired former Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine as a senior defensive assistant, this also fell into the “good moves” category. Acquiring Pettine may not seem like a big addition, but he adds a lot of value for a Bears defense that will have a first-year defensive coordinator in Desai. 

According to a tweet from NBC Sports Chicago and WGN Bears reporter Adam Hoge, Pettine will help with self-scouting and opponent scouting. Pettine’s 17 years of NFL experience will ultimately make Desai’s job easier. 

Desai witnessed firsthand what the Bears defense was capable of in the four seasons Vic Fangio was the defensive coordinator — with 2018’s unit leading the league in turnovers and giving up the least amount of points. But Desai is still just 37 years old and will take some time adjusting to his new position.

Mike Pettine Bears

(Photo of Sean Desai: Courtesy Chicago Bears)

Pettine, on the other hand, has had eight years of experience as a defensive coordinator: four with the New York Jets from 2009-12, one year with the Buffalo Bills in 2013 and the last three years with the Packers. 

In addition to calling the plays, Desai’s primary focus will be to put the Bears’ playmakers in advantageous situations. Desai needs to get the most out of Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Roquan Smith, Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson.

For Desai, who has been with Chicago since 2013, this will require some reflecting back to 2018’s team, utilizing some of Fangio’s schemes but at the same time implementing his own. Trying to create this balance could take away from scouting opponents, which is where Pettine’s experience comes into play. 

An area this Bears’ defense should see an immediate boost is in games against NFC North opponents. Pettine and Nagy both started coaching in the division in 2018, so there is familiarity. Last season, the Bears gave up 179 total points (29.8 points per game) to NFC North opponents and finished with a 2-4 record. 

When it comes to self-scouting, Pettine will have to assess how he can get Jackson and Quinn to play like they did before the 2020 season. Both players have expensive contracts and need to have bounce-back seasons. 

Most of this Bears’ defense is solidified. However, one area where it will take collaboration from Pettine, Desai, assistant defensive backs coach Mike Adams and secondary coach Deshea Townsend is figuring out who should play the nickel cornerback position. 

Right now, Buster Skrine is under contract for the 2021 season, but the Bears would save just under $3 million if they cut him before June 1, according to Over The Cap. Skrine missed five games last season (including the playoffs) with a concussion and his play was inconsistent. This may lead the Bears’ brass to give Duke Shelley or Kindle Vildor an opportunity to take the nickel spot. 

The Bears defense is undoubtedly the strength of this team. Still, there is plenty that needs to be addressed on this side of the ball. It will be up to Desai, Pettine and the rest of this Bears coaching staff to maximize the talent they have to help the unit return to an elite level. 

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