By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) After spending 25 years in the NFL, Bears coach John Fox has developed extensive relationships throughout the league, which have helped him shape strong coaching staffs. During his recent four-year run in Denver, three of his hand-picked coordinators went on to become head coaches – Dennis Allen, Mike McCoy and Jack Del Rio.
This quality raised Fox’s stock in the eyes of general manager Ryan Pace.
“That’s one of his strengths, all of the coaches he’s worked with,” Pace said. “So the fact that a ton of guys want to come work for him is a great thing.”
Just four days ago, the Bears requested permission to interview Vic Fangio. Pace acknowledged Monday the Bears interviewed Fangio, but he said they hadn’t made a contract offer to Fangio at that time. That all changed Tuesday as, Fangio has become the team’s new defensive coordinator, which was first reported by CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora.
It was just on Monday that La Canfora suggested Fangio was nearing a deal with the Washington Redskins, yet the Bears continued their recent string of breaking convention and cut in line to seal the deal and secure arguably the best defensive coordinator candidate on the market. Over the past four seasons in San Francisco, Fangio’s defenses finished in the top five in total defense every year and top three in points three of the four years.
Once again, Pace has demonstrated urgency and swiftness to secure top talent on the open coaching market, which he feels is as important as free agency.
“I look at these coordinators as free-agent moves,” Pace said. “Sometimes your best free agent acquisition is a coach. If we get the right coordinators and the right coaches, that’s going to set us up. I’m excited about it. Right now, the clock is ticking on these coordinators, so a part of me is like, ‘Let’s go, let’s go.’”
Fangio is a proven commodity. His roots trace back to Jim Mora Sr. and Dom Capers, who was the original head coach for the inaugural season of expansion franchises in both Carolina and Houston. Capers gave Fangio his first job as an NFL defensive coordinator in 1995 with Carolina and brought him along in the same capacity to Houston in 2002.
Schematically, Fangio runs a true multiple defense that will deploy both 3-4 and 4-3 fronts mixing one- and two-gap principles. Fox isn’t tied to any base defense, he said Monday.
“With your 3-4, 4-3,” Fox said, “spending 25 years in this league as a head coach or a defensive coach, I think sometimes maybe on the outside more is made of that than reality. We’re going to our players in the best position for them to have success. That’s how we’re going to earn their respect moving forward because they know we can help that, whether that’s a 3-4 or 4-3 has not been determined yet.”
With Fangio, the reality is they may not have to make a determination, as he’s one of the league’s premier week-to-week game-planners.
Former Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer has previously lauded Fangio’s defenses.
“They do a good job of zone coverage, although matching in some man situations within the zone, so it’s part-zone, part-man and they don’t show it pre-snap,” Kromer said. “They also do a good job of making you throw the ball underneath and go the long, hard way.”
Independent of scheme, the Bears need talent at every level of their defense. But with two esteemed defensive coaches on their staff, this hire is beneficial to Pace and his scouts, who can narrow their focus to specific profiles of athletes as they survey prospects this week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile.
“We’re going to try to locate the best human talent there is,” Fox said, “and then move forward to try to motivate them to be the best they can be every day, and that’s really coaches and players.”
Hiring Fangio is another example of the actions matching the rhetoric at Halas Hall, which is a refreshing change from the status quo.
Dan Durkin covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.