Vic Fangio may just be the perfect coach for Denver.
And not just because he is a defensive mastermind.
Because he is not taking sh*t from anybody - whether he is talking to an All Pro edge rusher, a team owner or even a GM.
“Vic hasn’t changed. He is who he is. He’s not going to change his style for anybody,” Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic Chicago told Orange & Blue Radio on Monday. “If John Elway is bringing in Fangio and thinks he will suddenly do things they want him to do - from a public persona to PR - they are barking up the wrong tree.”
Fishbain joined Ryan Edwards, Andrew Mason and Steve Atwater on First & 10 at 10 to talk about the candid defensive coordinator who turned the Bears’ defense around - from last in the league in 2013-14 to first in 2018.
And despite being “old school,” Fangio has great rapport with his players.
“Players love him,” Fishbain said. “Talking to them last week, none of them want to see [Fangio] leave, and I don’t think it’s lip service. Guys always say they respect him,” Fishbain pointed out. “He will go to Khalil Mack and tell Mack when he screws up. He’s not afraid. If he’s in Denver, he would not be afraid to tell Von Miller if he missed an assignment.”
Although it often takes younger players a little while to get used to his dry sense of humor (and know when he’s joking), Fishbain noted that players all over the depth chart appreciate his straight-forward manner.
Akiem Hicks, a Pro Bowl-bound defensive end for the Bears, told Fishbain that Fangio frequently called him out for mistakes he made in play.
“Fangio is not afraid in team meetings to publicly get on a player,” Fishbain said. “He earns respect from his guys.”
A coach not afraid to get on Von Miller or stand up to John Elway???
But perhaps most importantly about Fangio, Fishbains says, is the influence he could have on the Broncos’ defense if he were to become head coach.
As Andrew Mason pointed out, Fangio’s defenses early in his 30-year coaching career were middle of the pack in the league. But in the second phase of his coaching career, his defenses with Baltimore, San Francisco and now Chicago have all been among the best in the league.
While good players had something to do with it, Fishbain notes that adapting to the offensive schemes has become a strength.
“Vic certainly had good players there - Hall-of-Famers no doubt in Baltimore, San Francisco and certainly one in Khalil Mack this year,” Fishbain said. “But he learned how to scheme up against better offenses, and he has done an phenomenal job adapting to the passing offenses of today. The Bears blitz rarely, but they put tons of pressure on the quarterback.”
And that kind of approach - using his players’ strengths - helped the old-school Bears’ defense hold the high-powered Rams’ offense to just 6 measly points, beating them 15-6 last month.
“If I’m Vic Fangio, I walk into John Elway’s office, and I give him a tape of Bears - Rams Dec. 9 and just say, ‘we held the Rams to 6 points,” Fishbain jokes.
Fishbain pointed out that the Bears’ defense was the worst in the franchise’s proud defensive history in 2013-14. Fangio went to Chicago in 2015 and built the defense from the ground up. This season it ranked first in multiple defensive categories.