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I was really impressed with Matt Nagy's first year as the Bears' head coach. I wasn't the only one, as Nagy was named the Coach of the Year by the NFL itself. The accolades were warranted, as Nagy was routinely out-scheming the Bears' opponents in game after game last season.

The coaching prowess wasn't limited to Nagy either, as defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was also named the NFL's Assistant Coach of the Year. Fangio was helped by the shocking trade of Khalil Mack to the Bears at the end of preseason, who provided immediate results to the team.

After tripping over their own two feet in the 2017 NFL draft, it was starting to look like the Bears' management (including General Manager Ryan Pace) were finally putting together winning personnel. This was the smash-mouth, ground-and-pound, suffocating defensive team that I want the Bears to be. I could finally stop hating the Bears and start to love them again.

Chicago Bears - Matt Nagy Chicago Bears - Vic Fangio
The Bears had two coaches of the year in 2018!

New defensive coordinator

I'm not sure if it's going to last though. I expect Nagy to have a long and [relatively] successful career with the Bears, but my immediate expectations have sunk due to a few key changes in the team during the 2019 offseason.

The first bit of bad news came in the form of losing former Assistant Coach of the Year Vic Fangio. Fangio accepted the head coaching job with the Denver Broncos. Congratulations to him, as he deserves it! I think his schemes will work very well for the Broncos' defensive personnel, so it's real good news for Broncos fans. But damn, that stings for us Bears fans.

They get Vic Fangio from us, and all we ever got from them was Jay Cutler and John Fox?! This is not a fair deal at all...

Chicago Bears - Chuck Pagano
Former Colts head coach Chuck Pagano will replace Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator.

The silver lining is that the Bears' new defensive coordinator is head-coach caliber. Chuck Pagano (formerly with the Indianapolis Colts) accepted the job as the Bears' defensive coordinator going into the 2019 season. I stopped paying as much attention to the Colts after Peyton Manning left, so I can't really speak to how successful I think Pagano might be. The most optimistic stat line for Pagano is that he helped coach Colts' safety Mike Adams to be tied for takeaways in the 2014 season. That bodes well for safety Eddie Jackson, who very well might have been the Bears' best defensive player if Khalil Mach hadn't been getting all the attention.

So maybe the loss of Fangio won't be as painful as it might have at first seemed.

Drafting Jordan Howard's replacement?

What will be more heartbreaking is that the Bears probably won't have as effective a rushing attack, since they traded away Jordan Howard to the Eagles. When I first heard this news, the Eagles suddenly jumped up to being my favorite pick to win the SuperBowl... until I read that they also traded away Nick Foles to the Jaguars. Carson Wentz is good, but that team just seemed to have more of a spark when Foles was quarterback. The Jaguars, by the way, look like they might be a good contender for a "worst to first" turn-around season!

I was expecting Howard to be a fixture of the Bears' offense for years to come. Heck, he wasn't even done with his rookie contract when the Bears shipped him off! Granted his production has declined each of his three years, but that may have less to do with his performance and more to do with Tarik Cohen getting more rotations. Cohen is a potent weapon, but I doubt he can hold up to being an every-down back like Howard proved he could be.

Chicago Bears - Jordan Howard
I was expecting Jordan Howard to be a fixture in the Bears' offense for years, but he was traded to the Eagles.

As such, the Bears had to draft two running backs in an attempt to find a successor to Howard. David Montgomery from Iowa State was the first back they selected (with their first pick being in the third round). The Bears seem to have a lot of confidence that he'll start, and I've already seen speculation that he might make the all-rookie team in 2019.

As insurance, the Bears also used one of their seventh round picks on Kerrith Whyte from Florida. Whyte isn't expected to compete for a spot at running back, but he was an explosive kick returner in college, so may find a place on special teams if he can impress in the preseason.

With their remaining picks, the Bears shored up their receiver and cornerback positions. Seventh-round pick Stephen Denmark (Valdosta State) is a converted wide receiver. That, combined with his 6-foot-3-inch height could help him turn into an interception machine if Pagano and the other defensive coaches can whip him into shape as a cover man.

Iowa State - David Montgomery FAU - Kerrith Whyte
The Bears drafted two running backs to replace Jordan Howard and spell Tarik Cohen.

Turnover begets doubt

The Bears' draft wasn't particularly spectacular or deplorable. They picked a lot of under-the-radar players who have good upside if they can make an impact in training camp and preseason. The Bears were a fairly well-rounded team last year without any obvious weaknesses or positional needs, so there wasn't much intrigue going into the draft. Well, except, of course, at kicker. Hopefully, the Bears found a solution to that problem by trading with the Raiders to acquire kicker Eddy Pineiro (who was the most accurate kicker on Florida University history, and had the highest field goal percentage in the NCAA in 2017).

Losing Jordan Howard, however, did create a glaring need that I hope does not come back to bite the Bears in the ass in 2019. The departure of Vic Fangio, is an even bigger blow to my optimism, however, as his defensive coaching was one of the lynchpins of the Bears' 2018 success. I hope Pagano will be an adequate replacement.

As such, a lot of the optimism that I felt going into the 2018 playoffs has been dampened. This still looks like a very well-rounded team, as long as one of the running backs can step up to fill Howard's shoes. If Pagano's defensive coaching and scheming is able to hold a candle to Fangio's, then the Bears should be in a solid place to control the NFC North division again this year.

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