Could Vic Fangio make sense for the Bears? 'He's a great coach'

USA Today

Could Vic Fangio make sense for the Bears? 'He's a great coach'

Last week, in his final press conference of 2017, Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was asked about what he’s seen from Mitchell Trubisky this year.

“I think he’s grown,” Fangio said. “I think he’s proven the game is not too big for him. I think he’s proven that he can play the game. He’s exhibited talent, which is important, and some quarterback intangibles. So hopefully he’ll continue to improve.”

Fangio likely expanded on his thoughts on the former No. 2 pick during his interview with Bears general manager Ryan Pace on Wednesday. But Fangio is a no-nonsense guy who rarely, if ever, engages in empty platitudes with the media. He’s seen Trubisky practice against his defense, and while he’s a lifelong defensive coach, probably has an idea of what could help continue to grow the most important Bears player into a true franchise quarterback. 

If that were part of Fangio’s pitch, it’s a good start. But what the 59-year-old Fangio has done with the Bears’ defense in the last three years is his biggest selling point.

Pace on Monday pointed to Fangio’s work in getting the Bears to finish 10th in total defense in 2017. The Bears also finished ninth in points (20) and 14th in defensive DVOA, despite losing a number of players (Jerrell Freeman, Quintin Demps, Willie Young and Leonard Floyd, among others) to injuries. 

“He’s a great coach,” linebacker Lamarr Houston said. “Even though we didn’t have the best record, the defense did have a lot of good stats. That goes to show his worth as a coach.”

No player improved more in 2017 under Fangio than Kyle Fuller, who said the defensive coordinator could be a head coach “for sure."

“He’s been around the league for a long time,” Fuller continued. “He’s seen a lot. He’s been through a lot. It’s definitely something that he could, you know, provide for a team, players like myself.”

Fellow cornerback Prince Amukamara was similarly effusive in his praise for Fangio.

“Vic is a huge part of why we were pretty good this year on defense,” Amukamara said. “I feel like he’s a mastermind, one of the smartest DCs, most-detailed DCs I’ve been around. It’s hard to make him smile, but when he smiles you know it’s a good thing. Guys love him. We respect him. If I was here, I’d hope he stays.”

And linebacker Leonard Floyd said he’s had a “great experience” working with Fangio in the last two years. 

“He’s a great coach, a great defensive-minded coach,” Floyd said. “He’s always got little things he could tell you to help you do better and make plays. He’s just an overall great coach and great person.”

All these well-wishes and praise may not be a significant factor for Bears management, though (which Floyd understood — “I don’t really run nothing much in the building, but that’s a great guy,” he said). If the No. 1 factor for the Bears is finding the right coach for Trubisky, a defensive guy like Fangio may not be it. 

But the Bears didn’t just owe Fangio a look — he earned that look, and Pace would’ve been foolish to not listen to Fangio’s pitch. 

“He gets credit for (the defensive success) and we’ve had a lot of turnover and change on defense over the last three years,” Pace said. “I think the world of Vic.”

Roquan Smith helps shear a sheep at Bears community event

Roquan Smith helps shear a sheep at Bears community event

Roquan Smith has more sheared sheep than tackles on his stat sheet as a pro football player.

Smith and several other Bears rookies participated in a hands-on community event at Lambs Farm in Libertyville, Illinois on Monday where he assisted farm staff with the sheep's grooming. Smith said it was a first for him despite growing up around animals. 

"It's like on the norm for me though, playing linebacker you're in the trenches," Smith said of the experience.

"Shaving a sheep, I never really envisioned myself doing something like that," Smith said via "I was around animals [growing up], but it was more so cows and goats here and there and dogs and cats. I've petted a sheep before, but never actually flipped one and shaved one."

Bears rookies got up close and personal with more than just sheep.

Smith was selected with the eighth overall pick in April's draft and will assume a starting role opposite Danny Trevathan at inside linebacker this season. Here's to hoping he can wrangle opposing ball-carriers like a sheep waiting to be sheared.

The Bears' defense is ahead of its offense, but Matt Nagy doesn't see that as a problem

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The Bears' defense is ahead of its offense, but Matt Nagy doesn't see that as a problem

Asking players about how the defense is “ahead” of the offense is a yearly right of passage during OTAs, sort of like how every baseball team has about half its players saying they’re in the best shape of their life during spring training. So that Vic Fangio’s defense is ahead of Matt Nagy’s offense right now isn’t surprising, and it's certainly not concerning. 

But Nagy is also working to install his offense right now during OTAs to build a foundation for training camp. So does the defense — the core of which is returning with plenty of experience in Fangio’s system — being ahead of the offense hurt those efforts?

“It’s actually good for us because we’re getting an experienced defense,” Nagy said. “My message to the team on the offensive side is just be patient and don’t get frustrated. They understand that they’re going to play a little bit faster than us right now. We’ll have some growing pains, but we’ll get back to square one in training camp.”

We’ll have a chance to hear from the Bears’ offensive players following Wednesday’s practice, but for now, the guys on Fangio’s defense have come away impressed with that Nagy’s offense can be. 

“The offense is a lot … just very tough,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “They’re moving well. They’re faster. They’re throwing a lot of different looks at us and that’s just Nagy’s offense. If I was a receiver I would love to play in this offense, just because you get to do so many different things and you get so many different plays. It just looks fun over there.”

“They’re moving together, and I like to see that,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “We’re not a bad defense. They’re practicing against us, so they’re getting better every day, and vice versa. It’s a daily grind. It’s going to be tough, but those guys, they got the right pieces. I like what I see out there. When somebody makes a play, they’re gone. Everybody can run over there. It’s the right fit for Mitch, it’s the right fit for the receivers, the running backs.”

Still, for all the praise above, the defense is “winning” more, at least as much as it can without the pads on. But the offense is still having some flashes, even as it collectively learns the terminology, concepts and formations used by Nagy. 

And that leads to a competitive atmosphere at Halas Hall, led by the Bears’ new head coach. 

“He’s an offensive coach and last year coach (John) Fox, I couldn’t really talk stuff to (him) because he’s a defensive coach and it’s like Nagy’s offense so if I get a pick or something, I mean, I like to talk stuff to him,” Amukamara said. “He’ll say something like ‘we’re coming at you 2-0.’ Stuff like that. That just brings out the competition and you always want that in your head coach.”