The Chicago Bears defense has made *major* improvements in the three years since Vic Fangio took over as the team’s defensive coordinator. Last year alone, Fangio’s unit ranked ninth in scoring defense and 10th in yards allowed.
That’s good, but apparently not good enough for Fangio:
Fangio on defense in 2017: "There's no doubt strides were made. Not enough. If we were a great defense we'd have more than five wins. There's a lot of room for improvement."
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) January 18, 2018
Part of Fangio’s appeal (beyond his excellent scheming, game-calling, and history of player development) is his candid, no-nonsense banter. Fangio’s honest assessments are refreshing and seem to motivate his players enough to continue to play hard and produce under his watch. These tactics and his veteran know-how were among the reasons the Bears prioritized bringing Fangio back into the fold rather than search elsewhere for a defensive coordinator.
Indeed, Fangio isn’t one to miss out on an opportunity to speak out, and Thursday’s re-introductory press conference was no exception:
Vic Fangio: 'We gotta get our so-called good players, playing better."
— Jeff Dickerson (@DickersonESPN) January 18, 2018
Vic Fangio: "Guys like Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan, Leonard, Eddie Jackson … I think they all have a lot more to give to us than we’ve seen. It’s our job to get them to improve and become even better players."
— Kevin Fishbain (@kfishbain) January 18, 2018
So not only has Fangio raised the bar, he also identified the players who will be responsible for doing so — providing they continue to improve in 2018.
Defensive linemen Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman are among the best at their respective positions, but Goldman can certainly take his game to another level as the team’s nose tackle. Leonard Floyd has flashed the ability to be one of the league’s elite pass rushers, but a mid-season injury sidetracked him in 2017. Safety Eddie Jackson looked like a fourth-round steal for most of the year, but struggled with consistency at times. Danny Trevathan has been the Bears’ best inside linebacker since Brian Urlacher called it a career, but surely Fangio believes he could improve, too.
Fangio noted “there were a lot of possibilities available” when he became a free agent and it’s evident he explored his opportunities elsewhere before returning to Chicago. But it’s also clear Fangio was happy to be back with the team and having the chance to see through the full rebuild of his defense.