By Chris Emma–
(670 The Score) To appreciate what Vic Fangio has done during his three years as Bears defensive coordinator, consider where it all started.READ MORE: Red Cross Day Of Giving: Here's How You Can Help!
The Bears surrendered 27.6 points and 377.1 yards per game in 2014, which ranked 31st and 30th in the league, respectively, and marked dark days for a franchise steeped in success on defense. At one point, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw six touchdown passes against the Bears during a primetime game that season — all in the first half.
Fangio, now 59, has overseen a transformation of a unit that finished ninth in scoring defense at 20 points per game and 10th in total defense with 319.1 yards allowed per game in 2017 — figures made more impressive by the injury attrition to the defense.
The Bears lost safety Quintin Demps, linebacker Jerrell Freeman, linebacker Leonard Floyd, linebacker Pernell McPhee, linebacker Willie Young and defensive lineman Mitch Unrein to injured reserve. They dealt with injuries to linebacker Danny Trevathan, defensive lineman Eddie Goldman, linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski and cornerback Prince Amukamara. They played rookie Eddie Jackson at safety and turned to Kyle Fuller as their go-to cornerback. Through it all, they found continuity.
Losing Fangio as defensive coordinator would’ve been devastating. Not only would the Bears have missed a respected coach, they also would’ve potentially shifted away from the 3-4 schemes and personnel. That’s why Friday’s announcement that he was retained was a major win for new coach Matt Nagy. It means the Bears can continue their growth on defense.
It certainly was a win for general manager Ryan Pace, too, as he has invested draft picks and cap resources into 3-4 personnel. He traded up to the ninth pick in 2016 to land Floyd, the athletic linebacker being developed into an NFL edge rusher, and Pace took Eddie Goldman in the second round in 2015 to work as the nose tackle for this defense. This group was built for Fangio and his defensive identity.READ MORE: 163 Red Cross Volunteers From Illinois Responded To Hurricanes And Wildfires Nationally
Fangio was interviewed first for the Bears’ head coaching job, on Jan. 3 before Nagy was hired on Jan. 8. Fangio then took four days after Nagy was selected to clear his head and consider his options. An NFL assistant of more than three decades, Fangio was passed up for this Bears head coaching position in favor of a 39-year-old who’d been an NFL assistant for eight seasons. That could stick in the craw of any proud coach like Fangio.
While Fangio left the Bears waiting in those four days, other defensive coordinator vacancies were filled. The Packers hired Mike Pettine, the Ravens promoted Wink Martindale and the Chargers gave Gus Bradley a new contract. Possibilities elsewhere were gone, which meant Fangio was at risk of sitting out this season.
Fangio is set to speak at Halas Hall on Wednesday, when he will likely outline that the growth of this defense was what brought him back to the Bears. It’s a matter in which he takes great pride, knowing it’s been no small task getting the strong results. While John Fox failed as head coach, Fangio strengthened his resume as a defensive coordinator over the last three years.
Nagy needed Fangio as his complement, a defensive-minded coaching veteran to ensure continuity for that unit. The Bears chose Nagy in part because he could benefit the growth of Mitchell Trubisky and the offense, but doing so risked losing what was built for the defense.
By retaining Fangio, the Bears ensured their budding defense can keep building.MORE NEWS: Red Cross Reports Blood Emergency With Donations At Lowest Level In 10 Years