Bears new head coach Matt Nagy, who has taken giant strides toward improving a mediocre offense, now has made the strongest move possible to preserve a Top 10 defense by rehiring coordinator Vic Fangio.
Bears officials made the announcement late Friday afternoon about the deal, which includes a three-year contract for Fangio, 59.
Fangio was the first candidate to interview for the Bears' head coaching position, which eventually went to the 39-year-old Nagy, the final of six candidates to interview.
All of Nagy's coaching experience has been on the offensive side, so Fangio is the perfect complement.
Fangio took over a Bears defense that was ranked 30th in 2013 and 2014 and built it into a crew that was No. 10 in 2017 in total yards allowed and No. 9 in points allowed. In Fangio's first two years with the Bears, the defense ranked 14th and 15th, respectively.
"That's a very important hire for me," Nagy said, regarding Fangio, during his introductory new conference on Tuesday. "We're going to attack that full-steam ahead, and we're going to make a clear decision about what's best for Vic and what's best for this organization."
Bears general manager Ryan Pace addressed the same issue that day but was noncommittal.
"I have a ton of respect for Vic, and we're talking to Vic," the 40-year-old GM said. "We thought, 'Let this play out.' Matt's just getting his feet set and after that, his first priority is going to be our existing staff and then attacking the coaching candidates."
Fangio has developed a strong reputation throughout the NFL in 31 years as an assistant, including 18 as a defensive coordinator.
Toward the end of the 2017 season, he said he would enjoy the opportunity to continue his work with a group that includes a strong core of young players that should improve with experience and the continuity that Fangio's rehiring provides.
The Bears' 2017 defense was also No. 6 in sack percentage and No. 7 in passing yards allowed. The Week 17 depth chart included six of 11 starters who were 25 or younger, and was without five starters on injured reserve.
Fangio was rumored to be a potential replacement for Dom Capers after his firing in Green Bay. But on Tuesday the Packers announced the hiring of former Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine as their new defensive coordinator.
On New Year's Day, after Fox was fired, Fangio met with his players and spoke to them about the impressive job they did this season despite the rash of injuries.
"He showed us the great work that we accomplished this year with being up in the rankings and showing us our improvement," seven-year veteran cornerback Prince Amukamara said. "(Just) to let us know, 'You guys are progressing, you guys are on the rise, even though our record isn't what we wanted. You guys should still be proud of yourselves.' "
The defense that Fangio inherited in 2015 had been one of the NFL's worst for two years, but his crew made steady progress, despite the team's overall lack of success.
"Vic is a huge part of why we were pretty good this year on defense," Amukamara said. "He's a mastermind, one of the smartest DCs, most-detailed DCs I've been around. Guys love him."
Near the end of the regular season, Fangio was asked if becoming an NFL head coach was one of his dreams.
"Well sure," he said. "(But), you know it wasn't my ultimate dream. My ultimate dream when I got into coaching was to be a high school head coach and live happily ever after.
"Things happen. Sure I'd like it, but I don't take it personal or think I'm any less better or less qualified than anybody else because certain people are looking for certain parameters in their searches."
Wide receivers coach: The Bears also announced they hired former NFL player Mike Furrey as the team's wide receivers coach. Furrey, who spent the past two seasons as head coach at Limestone College in Gaffney, S.C., played eight seasons for St. Louis, Detroit, Cleveland and Washington.
• Follow Bob's Bears reports on Twitter @BobLeGere.