Sean Desai

Bears Notes: Desai, Robinson, Massie, Skrine

Earlier this week, Sean Desai met with the media for the first time since being promoted to the role of defensive coordinator. While the 37-year-old will take over a defense that has ranked as a top-10 DVOA unit in each of the past three seasons, they’ve also seen some regression since peaking in 2018. However, Desai doesn’t believe the defensive needs a significant overhaul.

“I’m not a big car guy, so my analogies may not be great, but this is like a tune up,” Desai said (via the team’s website). “We’re going to refine some things and we’re going to make sure our players are playing to their strengths on a consistent basis and they’re going to buy into the system and the whys and the hows of why we’re doing certain things. But we’ve got a good defense. We’ve got really good players here.”

“There was some regression, and we’re going to overcome that,” Desai added. “But we’re going to do it in a positive way and we’re going to do it where the players are going to be able to shine through that defense. So I think we’ll build some depth and we’ll continue with our tough, physical mindset of play and do that over a 16- to 20-week season.”

Some more notes out of Chicago…

  • CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora writes that the Bears are “prepared” to tag wideout Allen Robinson with the hope of eventually signing him to a long-term deal. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune writes that it will be difficult to fit a franchised Robinson into a reduced 2021 cap, but the writer also admits that replacing Robinson would be a more daunting task.
  • Speaking of the cap, Biggs provided some cost-cutting options for the Bears. The team could move on from right tackle Bobby Massie, although that would open a spot on the offensive line. Cornerback Buster Skrine could also lose his roster spot, especially since he has a $500K roster bonus due in March. Finally, Biggs also whether the front office will be receptive to paying tight end Jimmy Graham $7MM this season.
  • As for restructured contracts, Biggs points to pass rusher Khalil Mack and safety Eddie Jackson, and he notes that the team could also extend cornerback Kyle Fuller. Alternatively, the team could look to retain free agents like Cairo Santos and Cordarrelle Patterson on low-money pacts.
  • Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic passed along a few Bears players who have increased their 2021 salaries via proven performance escalators (Twitter links): defensive end Bilal Nichols (from $920K to $2.183MM) and guard James Daniels ($1.437MM to $2.183MM),. Their new salaries are contingent on the final 2021 cap number.

Bears To Promote Sean Desai To DC

The Bears interviewed a few outside candidates for their defensive coordinator job but will make a promotion instead. They are elevating safeties coach Sean Desai into the DC role, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Desai, 37, has been with Chicago since 2013. He worked at the quality control level for several seasons but coached Bears safeties over the past two. It is believed Desai will become the first person of Indian descent to become an NFL coordinator, Rapoport adds.

Desai joined D-line coach Jay Rodgers as internal candidates to succeed Chuck Pagano. He will take over a defense that has ranked as a top-10 DVOA unit in each of the past three seasons. The Bears interviewed George Edwards, James Bettcher, Colts DBs coach Jonathan Gannon and Mike Singletary for the job. A Hall of Fame Bears linebacker, Singletary re-emerged on the interview circuit after a lengthy absence. But Chicago is going with Desai, who holds a doctorate degree from Temple.

While Desai does not have much experience as a position coach in the NFL, he did serve as a special teams coordinator at Boston College prior to turning 30. He worked in that capacity with the ACC school in 2012, doing so after spending five years at his alma mater as a special teams assistant.

Coaching Notes: Bieniemy, Texans, Falcons

With the Eagles requesting an interview with Eric Bieniemy, the Chiefs offensive coordinator is now 7-for-7 in meeting requests during this hiring period. However, the third-year OC has again run into issues on the interview circuit. Despite being Andy Reid‘s right-hand man during the most successful period in Chiefs history, Bieniemy may go a third cycle without landing a coaching job. It is trending in that direction, Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports tweets. Bieniemy did not interview well on the whole last year and has encountered similar issues during this cycle, according to Tony Pauline and Benjamin Allbright of ProFootballNetwork.com.

Although the Texans changed course and submitted a request to speak with Bieniemy, as they deal with a disgruntled Deshaun WatsonCBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora notes that interview is doubtful to commence. With the Chiefs’ bye week over, any team wishing to meet with Bieniemy going forward must wait until Kansas City’s season ends. If the No. 1-seeded Chiefs make it back to the Super Bowl, the remaining jobs may be filled by then. Three teams have filled their positions; the Lions are soon expected to hire Saints assistant Dan Campbell; the Chargers may be zeroing in on Bills third-year OC Brian Daboll. This would leave only the Houston and Philadelphia jobs available. Though Bieniemy not being his team’s primary play-caller makes him an atypical HC candidate from the offensive side of the ball, it would certainly be strange if he exited another offseason without landing a coaching gig.

Here is the latest from the coaching circuit:

  • Staying with the Texans, they will interview another Bills coordinator this weekend. They will speak with Buffalo DC Leslie Frazier on Sunday, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets. Frazier, who has been Buffalo’s defensive play-caller, has re-emerged on the HC radar after four seasons as Buffalo’s DC under Sean McDermott. Support is building for Frazier with the Texans, La Canfora notes. Since the Vikings ended Frazier’s three-plus-year run as their head coach after the 2013 season, he has been a coordinator for two teams (the Bucs and Bills) and coached the Ravens secondary in between.
  • In hiring Arthur Smith, the Falcons almost certainly have their offensive play-caller in place. But they have identified a Smith right-hand man in Bears passing-game coordinator Dave Ragone. The Chicago assistant has emerged as an early favorite to become Atlanta’s OC, with ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler tweeting a Smith-Ragone partnership running the Falcons’ offense has a “good chance” of happening. Ragone has been with the Bears since 2016.
  • Now that Chuck Pagano has retired, the Bears are on the lookout for a new defensive coordinator. Defensive line coach Jay Rodgers and safeties coach Sean Desai stand to be the top internal candidates to succeed Pagano, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link). Rodgers served as D-line coach under John Fox in Denver and followed him to Chicago in 2015. Rodgers’ contract expires next week, and Rapoport notes he is expected to be a DC candidate for other teams as well in the coming days.
  • Marion Hobby will make a move to another AFC team’s defensive staff. The Bengals are hiring the veteran assistant as their D-line coach, Ben Baby of ESPN.com tweets. Hobby, who spent six seasons as Clemson’s co-defensive coordinator under Dabo Swinney, coached the Dolphins and Jaguars’ D-lines in the four seasons since. Hobby was with Jacksonville when the team’s “Sacksonville” D-line drove a run to the AFC title game.

Staff Notes: Bengals, Bears, Panthers

The Bengals requested permission to interview Rams cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant for defensive coordinator last week, and Cincinnati has now been granted that opportunity, according to Vincent Bosnignore of the Los Angeles Daily News (Twitter link). Pleasant, regarded as a rising star in the coaching ranks, worked for the Browns and Redskins before joining Los Angeles in 2017. The Bengals’ DC job is the only vacant coordinator position remaining in the NFL, and a number of candidates (Dom Capers, Jack Del Rio, Dennis Allen) have bowed out of the running to become a top aide to head coach Zac Taylor. Other coaches who have been linked to the job include Saints linebackers coach Mike Nolan, former Falcons defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel, Texas A&M DC Mike Elko, Florida DC Todd Grantham, and Saints defensive backs coach Aaron Glenn.

Here’s more from the 2019 coaching carousel:

  • The Bears have continued to fill out their staff under new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, announcing that defensive quality control coach Sean Desai has been promoted to safeties coach, while fellow defensive QC coach Bill Shuey was promoted to pass analyst/assistant linebackers coach. Additionally, DeShea Townsend, who was originally hired as Chicago’s defensive backs coach in January, has had his title changed to secondary coach. The Bears’ defense ranked first in scoring, third in yardage, and posted the best defensive DVOA since the 2015 Broncos, but they’ll have to fight off regression and adjust to new coaches in order to repeat as NFC North champions.
  • Former Panthers pass-rusher Everette Brown has re-joined the club as assistant linebackers coach, tweets Field Yates of ESPN.com. Carolina selected Brown with the 43rd pick of the 2009 draft, but he collected only six sacks over two seasons before being released. Brown, now 31 years old, subsequently spent time with the Chargers, Lions, Eagles, Cowboys, Redskins, and Browns, but played in only 16 more games after leaving the Panthers. He served as a coaching intern for Carolina last summer.
  • In case you missed it, expected Chiefs linebackers coach Matt House will instead stay on as the University of Kentucky’s defensive coordinator. The Wildcats were previously willing to allow House to leave a buyout, but apparently changed their minds as the hiring process unfolded.