Chicago Bears' Nagy had no doubts about wanting to keep Fangio
Almost from the moment he was hired as the Bears' head coach, Matt Nagy made no secret about the importance of rehiring Vic Fangio as the team's defensive coordinator.
"That was obviously one of the big questions going into this thing," Nagy said. "To me it was really simple. The numbers speak for themselves. Here's a guy that has been in this league for a very long time (31 years), and the production is there. (You're) talking about a Top 10 defense, year-in and year-out; a guy that I'll be able to learn some of the ins and outs of what (his) defenses do so well."
Fangio's reputation as a defensive mastermind was well established before he transformed the Bears' doormat defense that he inherited in 2015 into a Top 10 unit in 2017. So Nagy's interest in rehiring Fangio, whose contract had expired a few days earlier, was understandable.
But why would Fangio want to return as the team's defensive coordinator after he was passed over for their head coaching job?
"I didn't have a list," Fangio said of his criteria. "I just had to feel comfortable with everything; with who the head coach was going to be, the continued direction of the team roster-wise, things of that nature."
Nagy was announced as the 16th head coach in franchise history on Jan. 8. At Nagy's introductory news conference, he was asked about Fangio and said: "We're gonna attack that full steam ahead."
The process seemed to drag on forever, especially for fans who considered Fangio's defense a vital building block for the future. Four days later, the deal was done.
"It was a drawn-out process in that there were a lot of possibilities," said Fangio, who had other options. "It became a comparison thing. I'm not surprised (to be back). From the start, I knew it was an option."
The Bears got him, in large part, because Fangio has a desire to continue working with a group of players he has helped mold into an impressive unit.
"That's a positive," said Fangio, who also expects to have most, if not all, of his assistants back on staff. "I like our guys. I really like coaching the group that we have. My favorite time during the week was being in front of them and going over practice, watching the opponents' tape and installing the plan for the week. They're a good group collectively, and as individuals, and that part was appealing to me."
Last year's defense was No. 9 in points and No. 10 in total yards allowed. It was also No. 6 in sack percentage and No. 7 in passing yards allowed.
There's no danger of Fangio tearing a rotator cuff from patting himself on the back.
"Strides were made," he said. "Not enough. I think it's a wrong picture to paint that the defense was great and the rest of the team wasn't. We were 5-11. If we were a great defense, we'd have more than five wins. There's a lot of room for improvement there -- a lot -- and we need to do that."
As for the 59-year-old Fangio not getting the head coach's job and working for the 39-year-old guy who did, he said it won't be a problem.
Fangio was asked about his frustration over not getting a shot as the head coach.
"People have a picture in their mind what they're looking for (in a head coach). Obviously I haven't met that criteria to those people," he said.
"I don't think I'm any less deserving or less qualified. I know I do a (heck) of a job. I don't take it personal."
A bigger concern for Fangio, when he was asked by Bears general manager Ryan Pace to interview for the head coach's job, was how he would mesh with a new coach if he didn't get the top job.
"When Ryan came in and asked me to interview for the job, I said, 'Fine, if you want me to.' But I wouldn't want it to be held against whoever you hire that I interviewed for the job (because) that may make them uncomfortable. So I made sure of that."
All indications are that Nagy is more than comfortable with his defensive coordinator.
"The biggest thing going into it with Vic was just trying to figure out his philosophy, my philosophy, how it meshes together," Nagy said. "Can we make it work as people, as peers and as friends?
"It was easy to tell right away when we met that that was going to happen."
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