The 60-year-old has been in the NFL since 2001, when he joined the Cleveland Browns as their secondary coach. He had stints with the Raiders and Baltimore Ravens before a six-year stint as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts from 2012-17, during which time he was diagnosed with leukemia in his first season. Pagano went 53-43 with Indianapolis.
He spent two seasons as defensive coordinator with the Bears, whose defense finished the 2020 season ranked 11th in yards allowed per game (344.9) and 14th in points allowed (23.1).
It was a slight decline after Chicago finished with the eighth-best defense in yards allowed per game during Pagano's first season (324.1) and fourth-best in points (18.6).
According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, the Bears may consider defensive line coach Jay Rodgers as Pagano's replacement. Biggs noted general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy are also expected to return in 2021.
Rodgers has been with the Bears since 2015 after spending the previous six seasons with the Denver Broncos in various defensive capacities. The 44-year-old Minnesota native has not run his own defense before.
If the Bears do look at outside options, there should be plenty of candidates with legitimate interest. Chicago boasts a number of star players on defense, including Khalil Mack, Roquan Smith, Danny Trevathan, Eddie Jackson and Kyle Fuller.
The job also carries quite a legacy as the Bears have long valued defense above all else. That helped the 8-8 club reach the postseason this year for the first time since 2018. The Bears were eliminated in the Wild Card Round against the New Orleans Saints with a 21-9 loss.