New job, same old Vic Fangio

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When Broncos head coach Vic Fangio watched video of the Bears’ defense Tuesday, it made him smile rather than shudder. The upshot?

“That they’re still really good and it was fun to watch them play as I watched the video,” Fangio said Wednesday in a conference call with Chicago-based reporters. “Lot of great players there. A lot of great people and players that I have a lot of fondness for. Glad to see them doing so well.”

Indeed he is. The Bears’ defense is in Chuck Pagano’s hands, but it was built by Vic Fangio, with a helping hand from general manager Ryan Pace. When he arrived in 2015 with John Fox, Fangio inherited a defense that ranked 30th in the NFL in yards allowed and 31st in points. With Pace providing the necessary pieces, the Bears’ defense maxed out under Fangio last year — leading the NFL in points allowed (16.4 per game) takeaways (36) and defensive touchdowns (six).

It fueled the Bears’ rise from 5-11 to 12-4 and their first playoff berth since 2010 — a renaissance that helped earn the 61-year-old Fangio a long-awaited and well-deserved head coaching shot. After losing his debut — a 24-16 loss to the Raiders in Oakland — he’ll face the Bears on Sunday at Mile High Stadium.

It was no surprise that Fangio is the same guy as a head coach that he was as a defensive coordinator — direct, succinct and in-control. The big change? He coaches from the sideline instead of the press box. It’s not like he was going to change his style in a bigger job.

“I haven’t,” Fangio said. “I think if players that were with me in Chicago or San Francisco were here now, they would tell you I’m basically saying a lot of things in a lot of the same ways. I’m just talking to the whole team. Instead of half the team.”

Fangio waited a long time to become a head coach because he never politicked for a job and to many people, he just didn’t seem like head-coaching material. To reporters he was unemotional. To players he was too emotional.

But by the end of his fourth year with the Bears, it was clear that Fangio’s temperament, his ability to communicate and command respect and perhaps most importantly his no-BS approach earned him at least a shot. So it’s no surprise that anybody you talk to is thrilled he’s finally getting the opportunity.

“I really wanted to see it,” safety Eddie Jackson said, “because we were talking like, ‘Can you imagine coach Vic as a head coach? I really can’t.’ Because I always see him screaming at guys and getting angry and things like that. It’s kind of hard to imagine.”

Fangio won’t get too emotional about facing the Bears, but he still takes pride in his former players — which was particularly evident when he was kidded about no longer having to answer weekly questions about outside linebacker Leonard Floyd and his sack total.

“I told you guys time and time again that he’s a really good player,” Fangio said with a chuckle. “He’s had some injuries that slowed him down early in his career. But they knew what they were doing when they gave him that fifth-year option. He’s a hell of a football player and he’s going to continue to have a hell of a career. He’ll just keep getting better and better.”

Even under Pagano, the Bears’ defense still seems like Fangio’s baby. But he doesn’t see it that way.

“I can’t consider it that. I’m no longer there,” Fangio said. “It’s the Bears’ defense, not mine. It was the Bears’ defense when I was there. But I have a lot of fondness and good memories of being with those players. I really liked being around them on a daily basis. And that’s something that I’ll never forget. And I appreciate that [that] situation was there for me.”

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