After producing the #1 defense in the NFL, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio would garner significant interest from teams for a possible head coaching job. It’s something he’s pursued for a long time going back multiple decades. Some are curious as to why it took this long. Regardless, it seems his wait is finally over.

The Denver Broncos, after some long deliberation, decided to make Fangio their next head coach. He narrowly beats out Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak for the job, replacing departed Vance Joseph. It’s apparent VP John Elway was anxious to get some experience on the staff while also aiming to return the Broncos defense back to its dominant ways. Something that wasn’t the case the past couple of seasons.

It’s an unfortunate development for the Bears defense. Fangio has been so good since he arrived in 2015, elevating the unit to heights it probably shouldn’t have achieved early on before morphing it into the best in the NFL. He will be missed. With that said, the Bears must look to the future. Who can they look to as an option to replace him?


Chicago Bears replacement possibilities with Fangio leaving

There are a few factors to keep in mind here. The Bears run a 3-4 defensive alignment. Odds are the team would prefer to keep it that way given the success they’ve had the past two years especially. This narrows the list of possibilities somewhat. However, there are some definite good ones available.

Rex Ryan (FA)

What a fun story this would be. The son of Buddy Ryan coming to Chicago to take over the job that his daddy made famous. Rex has been out of the league for two years now, recuperating as an analyst after eight years as a head coach for the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills. During that span and even before that, the man had a well-earned reputation for producing quality defenses.

During a four-year run as the Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator, his unit never finished lower than 6th in total defense and finished in the top 10 three times in points allowed. His Jets teams finished top 6 in total defense five of the six seasons he was there. The guy knows what he’s doing. He has a reputation for aggressiveness being able to relate to his players. Best of all? His chances of being plucked for a head coaching job are remote.

Chuck Pagano (FA)

A lot of people give Pagano grief for how things went during his run as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. That’s unfair. The man took the team to the playoffs three times including an AFC championship and had just one losing season despite some awful roster management by his GM Ryan Grigson. He’s proven that when he has modestly good talent, he can produce a quality defense.

Just look to his brief run as Ravens defensive coordinator in 2011. The unit finished 3rd in both points allowed and total defense. After he left a year later, it plummeted to 12th and 17th respectively. It’s clear the man had a tangible impact on the effectiveness of that unit. His ability to motivate players and attention to detail are big pluses.

Dom Capers (FA)

Don’t roll your eyes. Just because the Green Bay Packers fired him doesn’t mean they made the right decision. Caper has been one of the better defensive coordinators in the NFL for a long time. There’s a reason the man was chosen twice to be the head coach of a franchise. He knows what he’s doing. During a long run in the league as a defensive coordinator, he’s produced a top 10 defense in points allowed seven times.

That was for four different teams no less. The fact he was basically the man who helped elevate Fangio makes it all the better. Fangio got his first and third jobs as a defensive coordinator in the NFL thanks to Capers during his head coaching stints. The man is known for his creative scheming, aggressive blitz packages and ability to produce takeaways.

Jim Leonard (Wisconsin)

Few men have transitioned from playing to coaching faster than Leonard. Here’s a guy who was playing safety for the Cleveland Browns in 2014. Just two years later he was named defensive backs coach at Wisconsin and a year after that he became their defensive coordinator. It wasn’t hard to see why. His knowledge of the game is reportedly encyclopedic, utilizing all sorts of creative formations and packages to hamper offenses.

His impact was felt immediately as Wisconsin finished 4th in total defense for 2017. Though they’ve taken a step back in 2018, much of that could be attributed to injuries and losses to the draft this past year. He put on a clinic in the Pinstripe Bowl against Miami, allowing just three points and snagging three interceptions. He has extensive NFL experience and is only 36-years old.

Ed Donatell (Bears DBs coach)

Most might assume that the obvious first choice to replace Fangio is with his right-hand man. Ed Donatell has been with Fangio since 2011 when they were with the San Francisco 49ers. During that time he’s done superb work with defensive backs. His latest might be his best though, transforming Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson into All-Pros and getting the best season out of Prince Amukamara he’s ever had.

Promoting him would make sense. There are a few issues though. Donatell is a free agent this year, which means the Bears would have to re-sign him. That might be difficult if Fangio wants him to follow to Denver, which is a strong possibility. Then there’s the fact that Donatell has been a defensive coordinator before in Atlanta and Green Bay. Both of those units ran out of a 4-3 alignment.

Not to mention all but one of those seven defenses finished outside the top 10 in points allowed.