Bears hire Pagano as DC to replace Vic Fangio
The NFC North-champion Chicago Bears have hired former Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano as their defensive coordinator to replace Vic Fangio.
Pagano inherits one of the NFL’s stingiest defenses after Fangio left to take the Denver Broncos’ head coaching job. He will get to work with one of the league’s best pass rushers in Khalil Mack as well as two other All-Pros — cornerback Kyle Fuller and safety Eddie Jackson.
Pagano led Indianapolis to a 53-43 record and two AFC South championships from 2012 to 2017.
The Bears went 12-4 in their first season under coach Matt Nagy after four straight last-place finishes and made the playoffs for the first time in eight years.
Priefer says he’s joining Browns
The Freddie Kitchens Era, although still not official, is rolling along.
While his agent continued to hammer out details for him to become Cleveland’s new coach, Kitchens continued to piece together his staff with the Browns. On Friday, former Vikings coordinator Mike Priefer announced he will handle special teams for Kitchens.
Kitchens and the Browns reached agreement earlier this week, but as of Friday night the team had still not confirmed his hiring. There don’t appear to be any major obstacles to prevent Kitchens from being named the team’s 17th full-time coach.
Longtime Vikings assistant John Michels dies at 87
Kingsport, Tenn.: John Michels, a College Football Hall of Famer whose 27 seasons as a Minnesota Vikings assistant coach included all four of their Super Bowl appearances, has died. He was 87.
Michels’ daughter, Sarah Michels-Dunkel, said Friday that her father died Thursday in Kingsport.
Michels worked on the Vikings’ coaching staff from 1967-93, making him the longest-tenured assistant coach in franchise history. He was the offensive line coach that entire stretch, most of it under coach Bud Grant, aside from one season a running backs coach.
He played for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1953 and 1956 before joining the Canadian Football League’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers, where he played for Grant. Michels later worked on Grant’s coaching staff at Winnipeg and with the Vikings. Michels also was an assistant at Texas A&M for one season.
He was a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army from 1954-56.
Former Lions coach Rick Forzano has died at age 90
Allen Park, Mich.: Rick Forzano, who was the coach of the Detroit Lions during the mid-1970s and hired a young Bill Belichick to work on his staff, has died. He was 90.
The Lions said Thursday night that Forzano’s family confirmed his death. He died Wednesday.
Forzano coached the Lions for the 1974 and 1975 seasons, plus the first four games in 1976. He went 15-17.
Jets make it official, hire former Dolphins coach Adam Gase
The New York Jets officially have Adam Gase in place
The team announced the hiring of the former Miami Dolphins coach as their head coach Friday after coming to an agreement on Wednesday night.
Gase will be formally introduced as the Jets’ coach at a news conference Monday at the team’s facility in Florham Park, New Jersey. The 40-year-old Gase was 23-26 in three years with Miami, including a playoff game in the 2016 season, before being fired last week.
NFL launches social justice initiative
The NFL is launching a social justice platform, with an emphasis on education, economic development and community and police relations.
The platform is called Inspire Change and includes the funding of grass-roots organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and Operation HOPE. It also will establish a digital learning curriculum for African-American history in 175 underserved high schools.
The league announced the initiative Friday in connection with its 32 teams and the Players Coalition, a group of players that works for social justice. Inspire Change is the latest step for the league and the players after they established a working relationship in October 2017 following player demonstrations for social justice during the national anthem — a topic that drew attention from the White House.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have hired Teryl Austin as a senior defensive assistant coach. The team announced the move Friday, adding that Austin’s focus will be the secondary. Austin has coached in the NFL for the better part of two decades, including stops in Detroit and Cincinnati as defensive coordinator. Austin previously worked as a secondary coach for Seattle, Arizona and Baltimore. ... Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry is hopeful of playing less than eight months after suffering a knee injury, but it is likely to be a game-time decision. ... The Baltimore Ravens have replaced offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg with Greg Roman, who will continue to oversee the evolution of Lamar Jackson as the team’s starting quarterback.