Bears' Respect For Vic Fangio Runs Deep

Fangio's personality still lives in the Bears.

Chris Emma
September 11, 2019 - 4:25 pm
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) -- Vic Fangio is still ever present inside Halas Hall.

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Though Fangio is working in his first year as the Broncos head coach and will face the Bears on Sunday, his former players and coaching peers still carry on his matter-of-fact approach and share the stories of his fiery competitiveness in practice. Their appreciation of Fangio is genuine.

It's mutual. Fangio feels it, too.

"During pregame warmup, I think it might bring back a memory or two when I see those guys," Fangio said.

It's why the Bears were so thrilled to see their former defensive coordinator Fangio in January get his first NFL head coaching opportunity after nearly four decades as an assistant.

They understood the odds weren't in Fangio's favor to become a head coach. Fangio even admitted he thought the chance had passed him by. The trend was for teams to seek the next offensive-minded young assistant like Sean McVay, not to consider a longtime defensive assistant in his 60s. Even the Bears passed on Fangio to instead hire the offensive-minded Matt Nagy in 2018.

But Fangio got his chance to lead the Broncos after spending four years with the Bears.

"Guys who put in the time and do the right thing, do it the right way, you're always looking for those guys to be in a position to lead a group of men," Bears defensive line coach Jay Rodgers said.

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Bears offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, like Fangio a veteran of many coaching stops, shared the same sentiment.

"I was only with him a year, but I have tremendous respect for him," Hiestand said.

Nagy still gets a kick out of how the otherwise reserved Fangio would celebrate takeaways in practice, jumping around the field and throwing his call sheet in the air. Nagy even went to the video room and had it cut for the entire team to enjoy. Their relationship went beyond the work.

Nagy was the final interview the Bears conducted in their coaching search in January 2018 and was hired despite less than a decade of experience. Fangio's interview was the team's first and mostly done out of respect. It was important for Nagy to keep Fangio on his coaching staff for that first season leading the team. 

What allowed Nagy and Fangio to click was the authenticity behind their respective approaches. The "be you" mantra of Nagy meshed well with Fangio's no-nonsense personality. Together, they shared much more than just Pennsylvania roots.

"For me, it was just trusting and believing in any advice that he gave," Nagy said. "You knew that there was merit behind it because of all his experience."

The impact of Fangio lives on within the Bears' locker room. The defense wouldn't have ascended to an elite level if not for Fangio's belief in many of those individuals. 

Fangio gave then-struggling cornerback Kyle Fuller the tough love he needed, then they connected over a passion for golf. In rounds of 18 holes together, they developed a trust in each other. Fuller went on to become an All-Pro cornerback in 2018 under the watch of Fangio.

Linebacker Aaron Lynch was left without much interest in free agency during the spring 2018, but the belief of Fangio led him to the Bears, where his career has been revived.

"I know deep down -- deep down -- he's really looking forward to this game," Lynch said of what awaits in Denver on Sunday.

Nagy and his assistants will only find their respect for Fangio strengthened as they prepare to face him and his defense. Both the Bears and Broncos have started 0-1 and are seeking a victory to bounce back. 

The Bears face the daunting task of getting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and their offense back on track against the defensive mastermind who knows them best. 

"Once the game starts, I think it will just be another NFL football game," Fangio said.

And the Bears know well that Fangio will give his best for a win.

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Roster move: The Bears claimed tight end J.P. Holtz off waivers Wednesday. The team waived defensive lineman Abdullah Anderson.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.