Rumors of a divorce between the Chicago Bears and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio at season’s end have become the hottest topic surrounding the ball club, but the Bears would be foolish to let Fangio get away.
It started on Tuesday with a column from Mike Mulligan in the Chicago Tribune and picked up steam over the airways via Mulligan’s WSCR 670 The Score talk show.
“Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is rumored to be winding down his time with the team as part of a massive overhaul anticipated at the end of the season,” Mulligan writes in his column. “The idea that Fox is displeased with Fangio or the coordinator is unhappy in his job sounds absurd but has been the subject of speculation for over a month.”
For their part, both Fox and Fangio denied the rumors of tension in the coaches’ room on Wednesday at Halas Hall, although such denial is commonplace in the face of rumors as no organization wants to admit to published reports of animosity occurring behind closed doors.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our staff,” Fox said. “I’ll just leave it at I am very, very pleased with our staff. … I want our whole staff back.”
One thing I’ve learned over the years that I’ve followed the Bears and the National Football League is that while not everything that hits the public’s eyes and ears is as clear as black and white, there more often than not is some kind of truth to rumors reported through reputable news organizations, leaving the public mired in various shades of gray.
That doesn’t mean Mulligan’s report is absolutely true. But typically where there is smoke, there is fire — or, at least, the faintest glow from a single-flame candle.
My hunch is that the “NFL circles” — about which Mulligan writes in his column — caught wind of a disagreement between two strong football personalities who are angry about the team’s 3-9 record and overall step backward in Season 2 of the regime.
It’s difficult to imagine that Fox would want to bail on Fangio given the improvements to the defensive side of the ball made through two seasons. The Bears are 7th in yards-per-game allowed and 16th in points given up. And all of this while having to cover for an offense decimated by injuries with the fourth-lowest time of possession and the third-fewest points per game.
Just imagine the strides the defense could have made if the Bears’ offense held up its end of the bargain.
The problem with the Bears getting rid of Fangio is that the team would have to start from scratch just two years after cleaning house on the old regime and making a switch to a 3-4 defense. Bears general manager Ryan Pace had to rebuild the defense from the ground up because the Bears had too many square pegs — 4-3 defensive players — to fit into the round holes of the 3-4 defense.
The Bears could look to promote from within, but many of the assistants on the defensive staff followed Fangio to Chicago and might not want to stick around without him.
The only logical choice would be to bring in a new defensive coordinator who prefers to run the 3-4 so that the Bears’ reclamation project on that side of the ball can continue without pause.
Still, it’s hard to imagine the Bears hiring a coordinator as innovative and as well respected as Fangio is throughout the league. That’s why the Bears can’t allow him to get away, even if it comes at the expense of letting head coach John Fox walk out the door instead.