New defensive coordinator Sean Desai aims to 'optimize' Bears' individual talents

Desai believes the Bears' defense needs a "tune-up" for 2021.

(670 The Score) Having earned a doctorate degree in educational administration, new Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai understands an important teaching technique. It's often best to cater to each individual.

That's the approach the 37-year-old Desai intends to bring to his job leading the Bears' defense. He doesn't want to force a system on his players but instead cater to their strengths, believing Chicago's defense can again be the NFL's very best, as it was in 2018.

"We're going to be able to try to do that and really optimize all of our players' abilities," Desai said Monday. "We've got a lot of talent on this defense."

Previously the team's safeties coach, Desai was promoted to defensive coordinator in January, replacing the retiring Chuck Pagano. He's the longest-tenured member of the Bears coaching staff, having arrived in Chicago in 2013 with then-coach Marc Trestman and worked for three head coaches over eight years.

Bears coach Matt Nagy placed trust in Desai as the team's new defensive coordinator in a critical time for the unit and team. Desai's task will be to improve a Chicago defense that has statistically regressed since 2018, as it ranked 14th in opponents' scoring and 25th in takeaways in 2020.

In Desai's eyes, the Bears can find their best form defensively by creating more opportunities for their best players. Safety Eddie Jackson is a prime example of that. He was an All-Pro selection in 2018 in posting six interceptions but had just two picks in 2019 and zero last season.

Rather than hiring a defensive coordinator externally, Nagy felt it was best to go with an in-house candidate in Desai who knows the strengths of each player. Desai doesn't believe the Bears require a reboot defensively -- even if the current contract statuses were to allow that to take place.

"This is like a tune-up," Desai said. "We’re going to refine some things and 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 got really good players here.

"There was some regression. And we’re going to overcome that."

Former Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio (2015-'18) has been Desai's greatest mentor in the NFL, though he has taken lessons from each coach for whom he has worked. Desai pointed to the organizational skills of Mel Tucker during his two seasons as Bears defensive coordinator (2013-'14) as well as the communication of Pagano over the last two years.

But Desai vowed not to be the exact mold of his mentors, instead committing to combine what he has learned from each of them with his own philosophies. Above all, Desai wants a defense that optimizes each individual talent.

He sees that as the path toward the Bears being dominant once again.

"We don't want to look into the rearview mirror in terms of what could've and should've been," Desai said. "We want to look forward and really embrace that as a challenge to be the best defense in the league next year. And I think we're going to have the tools and the players and the teaching and the coaching to do that."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.