By Chris Emma–
(CBS) Two years ago when the 49ers pulled a stunning move in promoting Jim Tomsula to the position of head coach, a domino effect took place around the league.
Among the dominoes to fall was heralded defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who had guided the 49ers defense to success that ranked among the league’s best in most categories and was suddenly available. Both the Bears and Redskins jumped at the opportunity. Fangio chose veteran head coach John Fox and his new opportunity in Chicago, joining in January 2015.
“Vic does a tremendous job,” Fox said recently of Fangio. “Concept-wise, he does a good job. I think he teaches it to a variety of different levels of experienced players.”
Fast-forward two years later, and Fox is 9-23 with the Bears and reports have surfaced of philosophical differences between him and Fangio. On Wednesday, Fox spoke for the first time since the end of a 3-13 season — the Bears’ worst ever under a 16-game schedule — and claimed that coordinators Fangio and Dowell Loggains on offense remained “intact,” though he didn’t necessarily offer a ringing endorsement.
Thursday brought major moves in Washington, with coach Jay Gruden firing defensive coordinator Joe Barry and his entire Redskins defensive coaching staff. That’s where an intriguing possibility opens for Gruden and Fangio.
While Fox did claim that his coordinators would remain in place, he did in December suggest that other opportunities could be possible for his coaches.
“I want our whole staff back,” said Fox, who has since reportedly fired two assistants. “Now whether that proves to be a reality or not, things happen. Guys get jobs, get head jobs, get chances to advance their careers.”
The Bears could deny Fangio from making a lateral move, but it’s worth wondering whether Fox would block that from happening. If Fox does indeed prioritize Fangio, he can keep him from leaving.
Fangio strongly denied reports of such a rift and has stated that he intends to be back as defensive coordinator with the Bears.
The Redskins in January 2015 were set to promote Barry, then their linebackers coach, before Fangio became an option. Gruden quickly moved to set up an interview. Fangio was hired in Chicago two days later, then Washington instead sided with Barry.
Fangio had his Bears defense ranking as high as seventh late this season before injuries took their toll.
The Redskins finished the season 8-7-1 and missed the playoffs in the final week of the season. Their defense finished 28th in the league, the Achilles heal to a potent offense.
Should the reported friction between Fox and Fangio be deemed too much, the best route for Fangio would be a mutual parting of ways and accepting an opportunity in Washington. Other options will be available, too, with the coaching carousel soon bringing changes to six head-coaching vacancies around the league.
If Fox does believe that keeping his coordinators intact is best for his Bears, he may have to fight to keep Fangio around Halas Hall.