Bears interview Vic Fangio for head coaching job

Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio became the first candidate to interview for the team's vacant head-coaching position when he met with general manager Ryan Pace Wednesday morning at Halas Hall.

Fangio, 59, is well respected by his players and has developed a strong reputation throughout the NFL for getting the most out of them in his 31 years as an NFL assistant, including 18 as a defensive coordinator.

Fangio is on record as saying he'd enjoy continuing his work with a group that has shown steady improvement, and his players feel the same way.

The Bears' defense finished No. 9 in points allowed and No. 10 in total yards allowed this year. It was also No. 6 in sacks and No. 7 in passing yards allowed.

Six other coaches from around the NFL have been identified as candidates for the Bears' top job, and those interviews are expected to begin as soon as Thursday.

It's possible that even if Fangio doesn't get the Bears' job succeeding John Fox, he could be asked to stay on in his current role, given his popularity in the Bears' locker room.

Fangio met with his players on Monday after it was announced that Fox had been fired. He spoke to them about the exemplary job they did this season despite a rash of injuries.

"One thing as a defense we take pride in, is seeing where we are compared to around the league," seven-year veteran cornerback Prince Amukamara said. "He showed us the great work that we accomplished this year with being up in the rankings and showing us our improvement. (It was) 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 running, but his crew made steady progress, despite the team's overall lack of success.

Amukamara said if Fangio left, he would be missed.

"Players are a big part of any type of success," Amukamara said. "But coaching is huge. Vic is a huge part of why we were pretty good this year on defense. I feel like he's a mastermind, one of the smartest DCs, most-detailed DCs I've been around. Guys love him. We respect him. If I was here, I'd hope he stays."

Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski said he received no indication from Fangio last Monday that he was aware of his own future. But the second-year player was all in favor of Fangio returning as the Bears' head coach.

"Yeah, it'd be great," Kwiatkoski said. "He's done a lot for the defense. He's done a lot for myself; the linebackers. He's a great coach, but it's a business. Who knows what's going to happen?"

Fangio was a hotter head-coaching candidate in the past. From 2011-14, his San Francisco 49ers defenses were in the top five overall each season and also finished in the top five of most major categories.

After the 2014 season, he interviewed for the 49ers' head-coaching job that went to Jim Tomsula, who had been Fangio's defensive line coach. He was fired after going 5-11 in his first year.

Fangio was asked in the week leading up to the Bears' season finale 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."

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