- He becomes the first Indian American to serve as a coordinator in the National Football League.
The Chicago Bears has promoted Sean Desai as its new defensive coordinator, making him the first Indian American to serve as a coordinator in the National Football League or the NFL. Desai, 37, replaces Chuck Pagano, who retired following the 2020 season.
Desai is no stranger to the Bears. He joined in 2013 and spent six seasons as a quality control assistant before being promoted to safeties coach in 2019. This is Desai’s ninth season with the team. As a safeties coach for two seasons, Desai worked with the Bears’ defensive backs and linebackers while also assisting the special teams coaches. In 2019, he helped guide Bears veteran Eddie Jackson to his second-straight Pro Bowl, the all-star game of the NFL. He also worked with safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix during his first season with the Bears, according to his profile on the Chicago Bears website.
“We are very fortunate and excited to promote from within and announce Sean Desai has been named defensive coordinator for our football team,” coach Matt Nagy said in a statement. “He is a person of high football intelligence, extremely detail-oriented, has a very strong work ethic and I cannot think of someone more deserving to lead our defense.”
In a statement congratulating Desai’s appointment, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, representing the 8th Congressional district of Illinois, said: “As a die-hard Chicago Bears fan, a person of South Asian and Indian descent, and as an American, I’m thrilled by the news that the Bears have chosen Sean Desai as their new Defensive Coordinator, making him the first coordinator of South Asian and Indian descent in NFL history. I’m excited for what this means for the Bears’ chances next year, but also its significance to the league and to the countless young people aspiring to follow in Sean’s footsteps.”
In an article in NBC, Adam Hodge wrote that although Desai “might be young, no one on staff has a more intimate knowledge of the Bears’ defense over the last eight years.” Hodge write that when Deasi joined Marc Trestman’s staff in 2013, he “had no idea he was about to witness two of the lowest years in Bears history – especially on the defensive side of the ball.”
Hodge had previously interviewed Desai in his podcast which he co-hosts with Athletic’s Adam Jahns on Apple TV. When asked why he went into coaching without playing college football, Desai said “Education is my passion and I really don’t find a better way to be a teacher than on the grass and doing things actively and I love the planning and the preparation behind this game in particular. The ability to develop and have a chance to lead young men and bring them past what they can – all of those experiences have opened my eyes to a whole new world of education. To me, that’s what an educator has to do – whatever you’re teaching. I just get to do it with grass and shoes and sneakers every day and be outside.”
Desai has received praise from around the league. “Sean is a family man of high character and the respect he has within our building from coaches, players and staff is unparalleled,” his mentor Vic Fangio, who served the Bears’ defensive coordinator for four years, told the Chicago Tribune. “I know he has confidence in himself that he can do it,” said Fangio, who is currently the head coach of the Denver Broncos. “He’s confident and I think the players will see how confident he is and how excited he is and that will get them off to a good start.”
Praising Desai’s work ethics, Fangio told the Chicago Tribune: “He’s had a good mix of coaching an up-front position and a secondary position which gave him a good understanding and a good overall view of our system and our defense at that time. That should give him a good head start on all that and that is a big part of it. The front has to marry with the back end and vice versa.”
While the Bears were searching for Pagano’s replacement, former Bears outside linebacker Sam Acho took to Twitter to compliment Desai. In one Twitter post, Acho wrote: “The Bears don’t have to look far for their next DC. Sean Desai has been ready for that role for years. He was Vic Fangio’s right hand man for 4 years, & helped craft that defense to greatness. Smart, talented, knows the ball and has all the credentials. All he needs is an opportunity.”
In a series of tweets Acho praised Desai’s selection as defensive coordinator. “The Bears defense was at its best under Fangio back in 2018, which is why it was so crushing when Fangio left for the Broncos head coaching job,” he wrote. “While Chicago’s defense was good under Pagano, it wasn’t great. But it has a chance to return to greatness under Desai, who former Bears linebacker Sam Acho said was Fangio’s right hand man for four years and helped build this defense.”
In another tweet, Acho said Desai is the “spitting image” of Staley — “brilliant defensive mind, scheme is out of this world.”
Prior to joining the Bears, Desai was the running backs coach/special teams coordinator at Boston College. In the 2012 season Desai also coached Boston College running back Andre Williams, who went on to win the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back a year later.Prior to his time at Boston College, Desai was the assistant director of football operations at the University of Miami in 2011 after spending five seasons at Temple (2006-10) as a defensive and special teams coach.
In 2010, Desai was Temple’s special teams coordinator/outside linebackers coach. At age 27, he was one of the youngest coordinators in the country. That season, Temple’s special teams ranked second in the nation in kickoff coverage, allowing just 17.4 yards per return. The defense ranked 16th in the nation in both total defense (317.7 yards per game) and scoring defense (19.1 points per game). Temple’s defense also finished 15th in passing yards per game allowed (178.2 yards per game) and their nine passing touchdowns allowed were tied for the second fewest in the FBS.
At Temple, Desai also served as an adjunct professor in 2009 and 2010, teaching in the master’s and doctoral programs in education administration. He earned the nickname “Doc,” because of his doctorate in educational administration, with an emphasis in higher education.
In 2011, Desai joined the University of Miami as the assistant director of football operations.
Desai received his undergraduate degree in philosophy and political science, with a minor in biology, from Boston University in 2004. Desai earned a master’s degree in higher and postsecondary education from Columbia University in 2005.
Bhargavi Kulkarni has been a journalist for nearly two decades. She has a degree in English literature and French. She is also an adventure sport enthusiast, and in her free time, she likes to cook, bake, bike and hike.