By Chris Emma—
(670 The Score) A carpenter never blames his tools, Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio recently reminded with a mantra appropriate to his coaching career.
Fangio has never been one for excuses, as was the case in rebuilding the Bears defense. In three years, his unit proved to have just a few game-changing players and too many injuries to tally, but Fangio kept working.
The Bears became a top-10 defense this past season despite the many moving parts, in large part because of the consistency Fangio brought with each day. It earned him tremendous respect from his players.
“Vic is extremely detailed,” veteran cornerback Prince Amukamra said. “He’s probably one of the most detailed DCs I’ve ever been around. He loves to go situation by situation and never leaves a stone unturned.”
Before hitting the road for their coaching search after the firing of John Fox on Monday, the Bears conducted their first interview at home with Fangio on Wednesday. It was general manager Ryan Pace conducting the interview, giving the career assistant consideration for a job he has long desired.
Fangio, 59, arrived in Chicago with Fox’s coaching staff after a power play in San Francisco forced out Jim Harbaugh and made Jim Tomsula the head coach. Fangio was hardy considered, with then-49ers general manager Trent Baalke seeking greater control after the friction with Harbaugh. He picked Fangio’s defensive line coach in Tomsula, and it was a huge failure.
Pace interviewing Fangio simply made too much sense, but he would seem to be a longshot candidate to be the Bears’ next coach. The team is more likely to hire an offensive-minded candidate whom Pace believes could be his Sean Payton or Sean McVay.
Losing Fangio would be costly for the Bears, who finally asserted their place as a quality defense and could take strides toward being one of the league’s best. With greater health and a few more pieces, the Bears can become a top-five defense under Fangio’s watch. Without him, the defense may have to shift from its 3-4 front, which could create an identity crisis for personnel fit to that scheme.
The Bears could also risk losing Fangio to the Packers, who fired longtime defensive coordinator Dom Capers at season’s end.
Fangio’s case to be the Bears’ head coach is simple. He’s widely respected in the locker room. He can pitch continuity for the defense and the prospect of the unit becoming great, while hiring the right young offensive coordinator who best suits Trubisky. The Bears would love to hire a coach who pairs with Trubisky for a decade of success, but Fangio could argue that if his offensive coordinator choice is promoted to head coach down the line a few years down the line, it means his offense was successful. It would mean Trubisky panned out as the Bears hoped in his development as the offense put up points to complement the defense. Recruiting a replacement offensive coordinator in such a case wouldn’t be such a tall task at that point with the foundation in place.
Fangio has never been a salesman, which likely made for a fascinating interview of straight shooting. He could get a head coaching interview elsewhere before this cycle ends. It’s the opportunity he deserves.
If the Bears indeed pass on Fangio, they risk having to build a defensive unit all over again.