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.”

Under Center Podcast: The charmed life of Jay Glazer


Under Center Podcast: The charmed life of Jay Glazer

When a guy gets Sylvester Stallone, Guy Fieri and Al Pacino in the same room you have to discuss why and how. Laurence Holmes is joined by NFL insider Jay Glazer to discuss how crazy Jay's career has been, plus an added bonus of Kyle Long stopping by for added fun.

(2:33) - Glazer's MMA style training schedule

(7:00) - Kyle Long joins the podcast

(10:14) - Stories of Jay's work with his Vets and Athletes program

(14:44) - How did Jay end up at Sylvester Stallone's house

Listen here or in the embedded player below.

Under Center Podcast


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Bears Free Agent Focus: Eric Ebron

Bears Free Agent Focus: Eric Ebron

Stop me if you've heard this one before: The Bears need a tight end.

It's a narrative that started bubbling since the middle of the 2019 regular season when it became apparent that neither Trey Burton nor Adam Shaheen was the answer at the position for the Bears. Coach Matt Nagy was forced to turn to undrafted rookie Jesper Horsted and little-known veteran J.P. Holtz to find production for his offense. It was a big problem for Nagy, whose system calls for a playmaking tight end like Travis Kelce to hit its maximum potential.

To be fair, there's only a few at that level (Kelce, George Kittle and Zach Ertz) in the league right now. But the Bears have to do their due diligence this offseason to try and find a 'lite' version of that guy. One player in free agency who has a resume of recent production as a pass-catcher to maybe be 'that guy' is Eric Ebron, who's coming off of a down year with the Colts.

Ebron appeared in just 11 games last season and finished with 31 catches for 375 yards and three touchdowns. It was a stark contrast from 2018 when he scored 13 touchdowns and was one of the NFL's best playmakers at the position.

RELATED: Bears Free Agent Focus: Case Keenum

The problem with Ebron as a viable target for Chicago is that his tenure in the league produced more seasons like 2019 than 2018, but his pedigree as a former top-10 pick with high-end athletic traits warrants at least a look for a possible one-year prove-it deal.

At 26 years old, Ebron still has a lot of good football left in his legs. His market value should come in lower than Burton's $8 million per season; according to Spotrac, Ebron's expected contract this offseason will pay him around $7.5 million per year. Compared to the likely cost for players like Austin Hooper (Falcons) and Hunter Henry (Chargers), Ebron will be a bargain.

Ryan Pace will be bargain shopping in March, and Ebron may end up on the discount rack after the first wave of free agency concludes. Teams will be hesitant to offer him the kind of multi-year deal he's going to seek, which will give the Bears a chance to swoop in and lure him with the prove-it theory. He's young enough to earn a lucrative contract in 2021 if he posts big-time numbers in 2020, which Nagy's offense will give him the chance to do if he stays healthy.

Even the worst version of Ebron is better than the best of what Chicago has on its roster right now. He should rank highly on their offseason wish list, assuming his market remains where it logically should.

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