Chicago Bears’ Nagy and Fangio are an odd couple that works
Head coach Matt Nagy and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio are an unlikely couple, but in their first year working together, they’ve collaborated to vault the Bears back into the top of the NFL hierarchy after years in the catacombs.
When Fangio began his NFL coaching career in 1986, Nagy was eight years old, and their differences are more than generational. Nevertheless, their admiration for each other is palpable, it continues to grow, and the results have been beyond almost anyone’s expectations.
“Vic and I are very different personality wise, but he brings out the best in me, and I think I bring out the best in him,” Nagy said. “I think that’s kind of how we are as a team -- there’s so many different personalities.
“He’s a little more introverted; I’m a little more extroverted, and I think that’s what it’s all about. If there’s a time where we rely on each other, we have a good mix there of knowing how to do that, but we both really respect each other, and I think that’s one of the reasons why it’s working so well together.”
Both men love to talk football, but while the 40-year-old Nagy is an open book, even with the media, the 60-year-old Fangio plays it close to the vest.
With his dry sense of humor, Fangio is the king of one-liners, and often that’s as much as he’ll say on a specific topic. But, ask Nagy what time it is, and he’ll tell you how to build a watch.
When Fangio was informed that he and Nagy have different personalities, he replied with a sly grin: “Maybe we have different personalities. What’s different about our personalities?”
Told that Nagy described him as “more introverted,” Fangio replied: “I’m … focused.”
After three years as the Bears’ defensive coordinator under John Fox, Fangio interviewed for Fox’s position after he was fired following the 2017 season. But Nagy got the job, which could have made Fangio’s return prickly.
“When we decided to work together, and I hired him (to remain) as a defensive coordinator, I knew what he could do Xs-and-Os wise,” Nagy said. “But you don’t really ever know until you do it, how they handle themselves during the week with game-planning.
“Knowing now what I know about Vic, and getting to see the mentality that he has and his knowledge of the game -- what he’s seen and the different looks he can give to cause problems -- I respect it even more. The way I see him game plan, he just goes about everything the right way, and it transfers to practice and transfers out on the field.”
Four of Fangio’s players were voted to the Pro Bowl earlier this week, and as a unit, the Bears’ defense is in the top five in NFL rankings in points, total yards, yards per play, rushing yards, yards per rush, yards per pass, and third-down percentage allowed, in addition to leading the league in interceptions.
Nagy spent just one season coordinating the Chiefs’ offense by himself after sharing the job with Brad Childress in 2016. And he had even less experience as a play-caller before taking those duties with the Bears. But he’s deftly handled that along with all the duties that come with being the head coach. Nagy remodeled a passing game that was arguably the NFL’s worst, and the Bears are currently No. 6 in scoring, thanks in part to six defensive touchdowns
“I just think he’s done a great job,” Fangio said. “The thing that gets lost when you talk to that subject is that he’s essentially running the offense, too, and he only did that for a little bit in Kansas City. Now, he’s a head coach for the first time. I think he’s handled those responsibilities, which are huge, very, very well.”
There’s a chance that Fangio, a rabid Cubs fan, attracts some attention after the season from NFL teams looking for a new head coach, which he naturally downplays, but not before giving reporters pause.
“All of that is for down the road, but I do know that I have one interview coming up after the season,” Fangio said with a straight face, pausing for effect. “The Chicago Cubs. Joe Maddon’s got an opening. That guy (bench coach Brandon Hyde) that went to the Orioles, he’s promised me an interview for that job.”