Throughout the offseason, rumors have been swirling about the job security of Bears head coach John Fox. Apparently he is on the hot seat if the Bears don’t turn things around this year. While I do not believe this to be true in the slightest, it is interesting to hypothesize about. If the Bears move on from John Fox, who would be his successor?
No, this isn’t a rant about Matt Miller’s report that Jeff Fisher could be lined up as the next coach. While that is, obviously, a terrible idea, that’s an article for another day.
However, there is a case to be made that the Bears have a replacement for Fox at their disposal should they decide to give him the pink slip this season. His name? Vic Fangio.
The Bears have had a great recent history of their coordinators becoming great head coaches. Lovie Smith’s long time defensive coordinator Ron Rivera has won an NFC Championship with the Carolina Panthers, and Adam Gase, who came to Chicago with Fox in 2015, led the Miami Dolphins to a 10-6 record this past season.
I am honestly surprised that Fangio has not, at least to public knowledge, gotten a head coaching job offer either. Fangio joined the Bears after being let go by the San Francisco 49ers in conjunction with the sacking of Jim Harbaugh. That being said, he didn’t deserve that fate in the slightest.
Fangio spent four years in the Bay. During those years, the 49ers had elite defenses. The year before he took over, they gave up the 13th fewest yards in the NFL and the 16th most points. His first season, he cut them down to giving up the 4th fewest yards and 2nd fewest points. He even one-upped himself that next season, cutting it to the 3rd fewest yards allowed. While he never topped those numbers again in San Francisco, he never fell out of the top 5 in yards allowed during his tenure there.
The years since for the Niners, however, have been abysmal. When Fangio left, a mass exodus occurred, as linebackers Patrick Willis, Chris Borland, and Aldon Smith left along with defensive lineman Justin Smith. While new defensive coordinator Eric Mangini got dealt a significantly worse hand, there is no excuse for that team to fall from 5th fewest yards allowed to 3rd most. Especially since linebacker NaVorro Bowman came back from injury in 2015 and played the best football of his career.
While the 49ers faded into complete obscurity, Fangio was hired by coach John Fox to run the Bears defense. While Fangio hasn’t put up the same type of numbers his defenses did in San Francisco, he did improve the squad from 3rd most yards allowed to the middle of the pack. He’s also fine tuned the Bears’ front seven into a dominating force with relatively unknown names in the grand scheme of things.
It’s painstakingly clear that his track record matches that of any coordinator on the open market. While these hires don’t always work out, they generally tend to. So why think that the Vic Fangio argument will be any different?
I don’t believe it will be. The Bears defense has taken giant leaps forward in both discipline and overall performance since Fangio arrived, a noticeable difference for those who watched and compared the Mel Tucker era to the Fangio era.
I’m not yet saying they should promote Fangio and can John Fox. However, if they want to replace John Fox with someone who can better mind a young and talented defense, why not go with the guy who has done it before?