Chicago Bears DC Fangio preparing for Eagles, period
There are NFL head-coaching candidates who prepare tirelessly for their interviews, familiarizing themselves with personnel and scheme, talking to confidants in the coaching fraternity and researching the position.
Then there’s Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, with whom the Broncos and Dolphins have already requested interviews.
So, how has Fangio balanced his time between preparing for the Eagles’ No. 7 passing attack and prospective interviews?
“I’ve done zero on that second part,” Fangio said.
Earlier in the year, then?
Fangio was informed that some people prepare for interviews.
“Yeah, “ he said, “I really don’t. Maybe that’s why I’m here. I don’t know. I have enough on my plate coaching these guys and the other things. (I’ll) deal with it as they come up.”
The 60-year-old Fangio, who has spent 32 years as a coach in the NFL and 19 as a defensive coordinator, has a simple formula for avoiding any distractions from job advancement that could jeopardize the job at hand.
“I have not returned one phone call,” he said. “I have not done one piece of work for it. I refuse to. And that’s it.”
Bears head coach Matt Nagy was in a similar situation last year preparing for the playoffs as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator, while he was also a hot head-coaching candidate. He says Fangio has shown no conflict of interest.
“He’s done a great job,” Nagy said. “From the talks we’ve had, he’s just been completely focused. Every time I walk into his office, man, he’s grinding. He’s got that remote in there, and he’s just writing stuff down and grinding with stuff for the game. I appreciate that. We really haven’t talked a whole lot about it just because we’re so focused in on this game.”
Fangio’s players don’t want to talk about him leaving, and with good reason. Since being hired in January of 2015, Fangio has steadily built a powerhouse, much as he did in San Francisco from 2011-14, when the 49ers were top five in yards allowed and top 10 in points allowed in each of his four seasons.
The Bears were No. 1 during the regular season in points allowed (17.7 per game), interceptions (27) and rushing yards allowed (80.0), No. 3 in total yards allowed (299.7), No. 4 in third-down percentage allowed and No. 9 in sack percentage.
So soldiering on without Fangio is a sore subject.
“Who said we’re without Vic?” said DL Akiem Hicks, feigning ignorance.
“Oh man, I don’t know anything about that,” said Hicks, who was finally voted to his first Pro Bowl after playing at that level for more than two years. “He deserves to be a candidate for any team that needs a head coach, but I would say this: ‘I’ve got a lot riding on you Vic,’ so I don’t think he’s going anywhere. I love playing for that guy, I have a lot of respect for him, and so does the entire defense. I don’t even want to think about the possibility of him ever leaving, so I’m going to pretend like nothing’s going on.”
CB Prince Amukamara, who matched a career best with three interceptions this year, is in a similar state of denial.
“Man, I don’t want to think about that,” he said. “Everybody in the league knows how great of a coach and a person Coach Vic is, and they know what he brings to the table. I’m sure he’s a top priority on a lot of people’s lists, but I know that’s far removed from his mind. I know that he’s thinking about going back to the big game, and he’s thinking about winning, scheming against the Eagles and (QB Nick) Foles. I think it would be tough for us (without him).”
Fangio’s all-business-no–b.s. approach might not make for great T.V. But it’s appreciated by his players, who respect his unique blend of teaching, professionalism, experience, knowledge and plainspokenness.
“He stays on us and has us prepared every week for whatever challenge we have going,” Hicks said. “But I think what’s really interesting about Vic Fangio is how he approaches it. He’s not going to come in there and give you a bunch of rah-rah and try to jack you up. He’s going to give you solid, hard, factual information and tell you how to play well.”
But even the gruff, old-school Fangio admits he likes hearing the kind words from his players.
“It’s nice of them to say that,” he said. “Feedback from those guys is always valued. So I appreciate that and like it.”
A huge baseball fan, Fangio joked a couple weeks ago that he had a job interview lined up with manager Joe Maddon for the Cubs’ vacant position as bench coach, which just went to Mark Loretta.
But he said he didn’t prepare for that one, either.