By Chris Emma—
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) – Vic Fangio certainly looks the part of Bears defensive coordinator.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Rounding Out The Warmest Weekend Of The Winter
Call central casting for a defensive guru, and Fangio is what you’d get. He wears the same gray team-issued sweatshirt and cargo shorts each day to practice, speaks in a firm and direct tone and is gruff and rough around the edges.
But Fangio isn’t running for office – could you imagine him alongside Donald Trump in a debate? – he’s in Chicago to bring the Bears a defensive identity.
“Tough, tenacious and getting after people,” linebacker Jared Allen explained.
In time, Fangio’s vision for the Bears’ defense may come to fruition. But this 2015 defense will most certainly be a work in progress.
The curtain raising of Fangio’s new-look defense was neither tough nor tenacious, and few people were gotten after. Aaron Rodgers’ white jersey looked fresh out of the dryer as Green Bay left Chicago with a 31-23 win.
The Bears’ defensive gaffes from Sunday’s loss to the Packers all start up front. Rodgers was kept upright all game long – hardly even hurried out of the pocket. Fangio’s 3-4 defense, which worked out of a nickel package against the Packers, couldn’t find its way to the backfield.
“We got to do a better job of getting some heat on the quarterback,” Fangio said.
That must start on Sunday with the Cardinals (1-0) coming to Soldier Field. Simply put, the defense must disrupt. Getting Carson Palmer’s jersey dirty would be nice.READ MORE: MISSING: Khoshaba Dikyanos, 84, Last Seen In Lincoln Square
Fangio’s reputation across football circles is impressive. He’s viewed as one of the top defensive minds in the game, making careers for players deemed to be average. In San Francisco, he built a defense ranked in the top five of the NFL each season.
Opposing offensive play-callers dislike going up against Fangio, because they can expect the unexpected. It’s the basis of his defensive identity.
“He’s a very, very bright guy and a heck of a football coach,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said of Fangio. “He should be a head coach.”
This is largely the same Bears personnel from the past two seasons – two of the worst defensive campaigns in franchise history – but it’s a new leader and strategy. The Bears will be competent because Fangio has them in the right place.
For this Bears group to win football games in 2015, it starts with a pass rush. That defensive line has to get a push, and the linebackers must execute their assignments. Allen hardly looked like the player he hopes to become at linebacker, Pernell McPhee was anything but the “violent” player he strives to be, Lamarr Houston saw just four plays on the field and Willie Young looked like a defensive end when he was at linebacker.
It was just one game, though. The Bears know they can be better. Fangio is the master of disguising blitzes and confusing a quarterback, but his players must execute. Inside that locker room, hopes are high for what this defense can do.
“The sky’s the limit,” safety Antrel Rolle said. “I think if we’re clicking on all cylinders, the sky’s the limit for this defense.”
Progress will come in time for the Bears. As long as they believe in what Fangio is teaching, this progress will continue. Building this identity for Chicago’s defense is a long-term project but one which has potential for production this season. He certainly has the track record to trust.MORE NEWS: Chicago Speed Cameras To Start Issuing $35 Tickets To Drivers Going 6 MPH Over The Limit On Monday
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.