General manager Ryan Pace has reaped the praise for his rebuild of the Chicago Bears this season. One of his best moves was retaining defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to oversee the team’s defense under new head coach Matt Nagy.
Fangio coached arguably the best defense in the NFL this season but he won’t be back for 2019. According to ESPN reporter Adam Schefter, the Broncos and Fangio have agreed on a contract for the former Bears defensive coordinator to be the next head coach in Denver.
The move comes just a few days after the Bears fell in the NFC Wild Card round to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Fangio’s 30 years of defensive coaching experience makes him a quality hire for a team looking to replicate the efficient performance by the Bears defense this season. Losing Fangio might be more costly than losing any of the possible defensive starters that will be free agents in the 2019 off-season.
Pace’s biggest job no matter how far the team goes in the playoffs this year will be finding a replacement as good as Fangio to make sure the defense does not struggle next season. The loss of Fangio would have the potential to be as bad as when the 2006 Bears team loss defensive coordinator Ron Rivera following Super Bowl 41. Rivera was let go by then head coach Lovie Smith due to creative difference, Smith proceeded to promote linebackers coach Bob Babich to defensive coordinator for the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
Although the Bears had almost all of their defensive starters return for the 2007 and 2008 seasons, the defense was not as good as they had been in 2005 and 2006 under Rivera. They were running the same base Cover-2 defense but lacked the blitz packages that Rivera brought that made the defense that more efficient.
He can choose whether to promote from within or find a defensive mind that has similar experience and mindset to that of his current defensive coordinator.
Secondary coach Ed Donatell has been Fangio’s go to positions coach as he has been with him since 2011 in San Francisco. Donatell would be the safest replacement as he knows the defense to a tee with little having to change. It could also be a possibility that Fangio would hire Donatell as his own defensive coordinator. The secondary coach does have some experience as a defensive coordinator as he held the position for the Green Bay Packers in 2002 and 2003.
In both of those seasons, the Packers defense averaged 38.5 sacks and 23 interceptions.
If Pace looks to hire from outside of the organization, there are several former head coaches who would make for suitable replacements with their background with 3-4 base defenses. Recently fired Jets head coach Todd Bowles has a resume similar to Fangio as before he was hired by the Jets in 2015, he was the defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals in 2013 and 2014 when their defense ranked in the top 10 both seasons. Bowles would have the personnel in place to run a defense similar that in Arizona.
Another possible candidate would be former Raiders coach Jack Del Rio who oversaw the Raiders return to the playoffs in 2016 with All-Pro linebacker Khalil Mack. Although Del Rio has employed 4-3 defensive schemes the majority of his career, he has worked with 3-4 schemes before. He was the defensive coordinator when the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl in 2015, Denver worked with a 3-4 base defense predicated on a pass rush from linebacker Von Miller.
With the recent head coaching firings across the league, there are several defensive coordinators who are currently available. Teryl Austin has been a defensive coordinator for the past five seasons with the Detroit Lions and Cincinnati Bengals this season. The Lions made it to the playoffs in both 2014 and 2016 due in part to their quality defense led by Austin.
The position of defensive coordinator for this Bears team will be a lucrative one. Any coach will have four All-Pro starters and a core that has been together for at least two seasons or more.