While the Chicago Bears play the waiting game with free agent Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio, one report suggests Fangio’s days in Chicago are already numbered.
Mike Jurecki of ArizonaSports.com/KMVP-FM 98.7 in Phoenix reports Fangio “will likely follow” head coaching candidate/Minnesota Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur wherever he goes. In a separate report, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune writes about the possibility of Fangio joining Shurmur in Arizona, where he is considered a favorite to replace Bruce Arians as head coach. Darn.
It’s no secret that we like Fangio around these parts – how could you not, seeing how he turned the Bears defense around in recent years – and while we obviously wish him the best, we’d be lying if we said we didn’t hope he stuck around. Indeed, Chicago has been angling to retain Fangio for a while now. And remember, he reportedly rejected an extension at some point in 2017. It could very well be that Fangio is ready for a change of scenery and a new challenge after rebuilding the Bears’ defense.
But if Shurmur does land in Arizona and brings Fangio with him, that would bump the current Cardinals Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher out of the picture.
And whaddaya know: A source tells Biggs that Cardinals Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher would be interested in talking to the Bears if he isn’t promoted to head coach.
*And the stars continue to align*
Of course, for that [Bettcher talking to the Bears] to happen, the Bears would have to put in a request to interview Bettcher, because he still has a year remaining on his contract. Obviously, if the Cardinals were already planning to bring in Fangio, it wouldn’t be a problem, but the timing of everything is a little unpredictable right now.
Bettcher, who grew up as a Bears fan, has been the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator for the last three years, and even interviewed for their head coaching gig, himself, earlier this year. The 39-year-old assistant has been a fast riser in the NFL, making his coaching debut in 2012 as the Outside Linebackers Coach for the Indianapolis Colts in 2012. From there, he followed Arians to Arizona where he coached outside linebackers for two years before taking over as the team’s defensive coordinator in 2015.
Bettcher’s defense (which features a 3-4 base, in case you’re curious) has ranked in the top-six in yards allowed in each of his three years as defensive coordinator and among the top half of the league in points allowed in two of those three years. Arizona’s defense posted top-five rankings in takeaways in 2015 and 2016, which is an area the Bears could definitely improve upon in 2018.
In any case, it’s quite possible that Shurmur lands in Arizona, where he could bring along free-agent-to-be Case Keenum to play quarterback. The idea of a Shurmur-Keenum package deal that was floated earlier in the week would make sense for a Cardinals team that also saw Carson Palmer announce his retirement. And at that point, adding Fangio to the equation would only sweeten the pot.
While losing Fangio would be disappointing after watching the defense rise from the ashes of the Mel Tucker era, signing Bettcher (an up-and-coming defensive mind) and teaming him with Matt Nagy (a young, innovative offensive-leaning head coach) is a pretty decent fall-back plan.