Bears Linked to Former Packers Coach: Report

Mike Pettine Bears

Getty Mike Pettine

The Chicago Bears are reportedly in the market for a senior coach to assist new defensive coordinator Sean Desai, who was just promoted over a week ago. According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, the Bears want to bring in a veteran football mind to help Desai, who is a first-time DC — and Biggs thinks the team may have a few people in mind.

The Bears were eyeing veteran coach James Bettcher for the position, but after he went to San Francisco to fill a similar role, the team could now look to Bob Sutton, who has spent the previous two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, and Mike Pettine, who was the Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator for the last three years.

Bob Sutton & Matt Nagy Know Each Other Well

Sutton was defensive coordinator in Kansas City from 2013-18, which overlapped with Bears head coach Matt Nagy’s time there (Nagy left to coach the Bears in 2018), so he could be a front-runner. He’s a bit on the older side, but his experience is vast.

Here’s a look at Sutton’s resumé:

  • Michigan (1972–1973), Graduate assistant
  • Syracuse (1974), Linebackers coach
  • Western Michigan (1975–1976), Defensive coordinator & linebackers coach
  • Illinois (1977–1979), Defensive coordinator & linebackers coach
  • Western Michigan (1980–1981), Offensive coordinator, quarterback coach, wide receivers coach
  • NC State (1982), Running backs coach
  • Army (1983–1990), Defensive coordinator
  • Army (1991–1999), Head coach
  • New York Jets (2000–2005), Linebackers coach
  • New York Jets (2006–2008), Defensive coordinator
  • New York Jets (2009–2011), Senior defensive assistant & linebackers coach
  • New York Jets (2012), Assistant head coach & linebackers coach
  • Kansas City Chiefs (2013–2018), Defensive coordinator
  • Atlanta Falcons (2019–present), Senior assistant

Sutton is still with the Falcons, so the Bears could try to poach him after seeing a few of their own coaches head to Atlanta this offseason.

Former Packers DC Mike Pettine Also Potential Candidate

After the Packers chose not to renew his contract, Pettine is now looking for a job. Considering he has spent three years with Aaron Rodgers and two with coach Matt LaFleur, his knowledge about the Bears’ primary rivals could be valuable.

But, as Biggs notes, there is another, more interesting connection between Pettine and the Bears:

The interesting tie-in here as the Bears try to get back to the success they achieved under former coordinator Vic Fangio is that Pettine worked with Fangio in Baltimore for three seasons from 2006 through 2008. So he’s familiar with the principles of the scheme, and Nagy has been complimentary of Pettine when talking about the Packers’ defense the last three seasons. Nagy and Pettine are both represented by agent Trace Armstrong, the former Bears defensive lineman.

As Biggs also notes, the Packers weren’t all that bad on defense under Pettine:

While Pettine has been scapegoated for the bad coverage at the end of the first half on a Tampa Bay Buccaneers touchdown in the NFC championship game, the Packers improved across the board on defense this season, ranking ninth in total defense, 13th versus the run, seventh versus the pass and tied for 10th on third down. They were much better defensively during the second half of the season.

Green Bay also wasn’t bad in 2019, finishing ninth in points allowed (19.6). The Packers weren’t great against the run under Pettine (they allowed 119.9 yards a game in 2018, 120.1 ypg in 2019 and 112.8 yards on the ground this season), but his 19 years of experience, including recent play-calling duties, could benefit Desai if he needs an ear to bounce ideas off of.

Here’s a look at Pettine’s resumé:

  • Pittsburgh (1993–1994), Graduate assistant
  • William Tennent HS (1995–1996), Head coach
  • North Penn HS (1997–2001), Head coach
  • Baltimore Ravens (2002–2003), Coaching assistant
  • Baltimore Ravens (2004), Assistant defensive line coach
  • Baltimore Ravens (2005–2008), Outside linebackers coach
  • New York Jets (2009–2012), Defensive coordinator
  • Buffalo Bills (2013), Defensive coordinator
  • Cleveland Browns (2014–2015), Head coach
  • Seattle Seahawks (2017), Consultant
  • Green Bay Packers (2018–2020), Defensive coordinator

It remains to be seen whether the Bears hire a more experienced coach to come in and give Desai advice, expertise, etc. — but with passing game coordinator Dave Ragone one of the coaches who departed for Atlanta, the team has some money to throw at another new hire. It’s unlikely the Bears will retain another passing game coordinator this offseason, so it’s looking like an extra set of experienced eyes could be coming to help on the defensive side of things.

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