With the signing of Vic Fangio as the Chicago Bears new Defensive Coordinator, the team continues to take the right steps towards rebuilding a team in turmoil. A defensive coordinator of 14 years, Fangio hopes to bring some of his experience and exterprtise to Chicago following his release from the 49ers less than a week ago. Despite their regression in 2014, San Franscisco has been one of the best defenses in the league with Fangio as the Defensive Coordinator, as they are currently second in the league in points allowed per game and fourth in turnovers since he took over in 2011. The Bears are hoping for equally immediate success from Fangio in 2015 and beyond.
Strengthen Linebacking Corps
The arrivail of Fangio in San Franscisco translated into many victories for the 49ers, none more so than the emergence of the 49ers’ linebacking core, which when healthy, is now considered among the leauge’s elite. The Bears are hoping for a similar transformation in Chicago.
In his first season the team drafted Aldon Smith seventh overall in the 2011 NFL Draft (ironic considering his first season with the Bears will again start with the team having the seventh pick in the draft). The controversial linebacker has since become a household name in the Bay Area as he recorded 14.0 sacks in his first season as a 22-year old. By the time he was 23 Smith had 33.5 career sacks to his name, becoming the fastest player in NFL history to 30 sacks, as he did it in just 27 games.
The development of Aldon Smith into one of the top pass rushers in the NFL, must be accredited to Vic Fangio as the team’s Defensive Coordinator. After succeeding with Smith from Day One in San Francisco, Fangio may convince the Bears to take a similar strategy with their number seven pick in 2015. In any case, his ability to develop Smith in one of the best pass rushers in the league, must have, at least in some small sense, convinced the Bears front-office that he is the best option for Chicago. As the Bears linebacking core continues to decline since the retirement of Brian Urlacher, Fangio’s experience with the position will be an immediate welcomed for Chicago.
Aldon Smith wasn’t the only linebacker Fangio helped develop in San Francisco. Though he was drafted the year before Fangio was hired, NaVorro Bowman certainly improved dramatically upon Fangio’s arrival. In his rookie year Bowman, started in just one game, finishing with just 46 total tackles on the season. With Vic Fangio as the Defensive Coordinator, Bowman started in every game for the 49ers, finishing with 141 total tackles in 2011, seventh most in the league at the time. Now NaVorro Bowman is considered one of the best inside linebackers in all of football, and with Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis, and Amhad Brooks starting aside him, the 49ers have had one of the league’s best linebacking units since Fangio took over in 2011. If Fangio can have a similar effect in Chicago as as he did in San Francisco, the Bears linebacking core may finally be able to turn over a new leaf since the retirement of number 54.
Even new Head Coach John Fox realizes the Bears’ need to restore their linebacking core to former form, and that begins by patching things up with departed veterans . In a press conference on Monday Fox made it clear that the Bears intend on making things right and burying the hatchet with their former Team Captain.
“With ex-players, I think it’s important to build a relationship… I just know that Ryan and I are going to reach out”-John Fox
Improve Team Rankings
The linebacking core is hardly the only thing to have improved upon Fangio’s arrival in San Francisco, as it is also not the only thing that needs to be improved upon in Chicago. After being at best a middle-of-the-pack defense in 2010, the team instantly became a top ten defense when Fangio arrived. In his first game as a 49ers coach the team won despite only 209 yards of total offense, setting the stage for what would soon become a very defense-minded team. At the end of the 2011 season, Fangio’s first season as Defensive Coordinator, the 49ers ranked second in points allowed, first in takeaways, rushing yards allowed, rushing touchdowns allowed, fumbles recovered, and second in interceptions. The season prior the team had finished 25th in takeaways and 16th in points allowed, as the team improved dramatically defensively in nearly all facets of the game. In fact, in 2010 the team allowed 346 points scored through 16 games. In 2011 that number dropped to 229 points (a decrease of nearly 17 touchdowns). Over the past two seasons the Bears have averaged 460 points allowed, or 28.75 points per game, the most in the NFL. If Fangio can have a similar improvement in Chicago as he had in San Francisco, at least in terms of points allowed per game, then he will remain the team’s Defensive Coordinator for a long time coming.