The cost of success in the NFL can be significant, and with the Bears among the league’s most successful teams this season, other clubs want a taste.
Thus, it’s hardly a surprise that Vic Fangio, coordinator of the NFL’s most dynamic defense, already has been formally requested to interview for head-coaching vacancies in Denver and Miami, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports Monday. Further, it should stun no one when Fangio’s interview list grows, as Schefter said is to be expected.
Because Fangio’s Bears play wild-card weekend, he wouldn’t be available to interview before at least the divisional round.
We mentioned on Dec. 3, the day Mike McCarthy was fired, that Fangio likely would be on the Green Bay Packers’ radar after they interviewed him for their DC vacancy last offseason. That request has yet to be reported, but Bears fans already should be preparing for it.
Fangio, 60, previously interviewed for the San Francisco 49ers top job in 2015 prior to them selecting Jim Tomsula and Fangio joining John Fox’s staff in Chicago. A 32-year NFL coaching veteran, Fangio also interviewed for the vacancy created by Fox’s firing in January. That, of course, was filled by Matt Nagy, but his and Ryan Pace’s work convincing Fangio to stay this season was among the most important moves of the year.
How much trouble, then, would the Bears be in if Fangio — who hasn’t shied from the fact that he’d like an opportunity to lead a team — leaves? It’s difficult to say, but it’s worth noting that there are several intriguing replacement possibilities, including a trio of just-fired head coaches — Todd Bowles, Vance Joseph and Steve Wilks.
Bowles, in particular, would seem to make a ton of sense if the Bears find themselves in the DC market. The 2014 Assistant Coach of the Year, when he was on Bruce Arians’ Arizona Cardinals staff, Bowles is tight with Nagy after the two worked together on the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles staff. Bowles is a more aggressive play caller than Fangio, but both run base 3-4 defenses and highly value a disciplined, dynamic brand of ‘D.’
The Bears could also look in-house for a replacement, likely beginning with secondary coach Ed Donatell, a longtime Fangio lieutenant with six combined years of previous NFL coordinating experience (Green Bay, 2000-03; Atlanta, 2004-06). Donatell has been instrumental in the sea change in Chicago’s secondary this season with Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson earning their first Pro Bowl invitations and Prince Amukamara and Bryce Callahan enjoying career years in easily the NFL’s best playmaking defensive backfield.
Conventional wisdom might suggest that Fangio isn’t cut from the cloth NFL teams are gravitating toward after the immediate successes of young offensive minds, including Nagy and Sean Mcvay. But dig a little deeper and you’ll see that two, other wildly successful first-time head coaches — Doug Pederson, 50, and Frank Reich, 57 — took the long road to their current posts, and obviously the Eagles and Indianapolis Colts are benefiting from going against the grain with those hires.
Of the seven head coaches hired in the 2016 offseason, six have been fired. Of the 13 top jobs filled over the past two offseasons, two already have been vacated, with several others likely to enter 2019 on the hot seat. In other words, the hiring process appears to be severely flawed, and deserving candidates like Fangio who long have been overlooked should get more earnest consideration this offseason.
Fangio can be blunt and old school — which might rub certain clubs the wrong way — but his players adore the “evil genius,” whose track record coordinating defenses is nearly unassailable. His work with high-pedigreed late bloomers like Fuller and Leonard Floyd and under-radar contributors such as Callahan and Eddie Goldman alike has been sensational. Under that slightly gruff persona is a charismatic guy who would serve a team well as its face of the franchise.
Fangio is overdue for his opportunity, but if ever there was an offseason for it to knock, this is it.