The Denver Broncos more than likely closed out their interviews with head coaching candidates after reportedly meeting with Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio on Monday.
General manager John Elway brought in Fangio the day after the Bears were eliminated from the NFL playoffs by the Philadelphia Eagles in a hard-fought 16-15 game in which kicker Cody Parkey’s 43-yard field goal attempt hit the upright and the crossbar before falling short in the closing seconds.
Fangio met with Elway and other Broncos officials in the morning but, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, he was back at Halas Hall at the Bears complex by lunchtime. However, he was scheduled to return to the Mile High City for dinner with Elway on Monday night, according to 9News in Denver.
After Sunday’s loss, Bears’ All-Pro outside linebacker Khalil Mack gave high marks to Fangio.
“Not speaking too soon — it was an honor for me,” Mack said. “Understand where he’s been and how long he’s been coaching and the guys he’s coached. Just seeing the things that he was able to do with the group of guys we had was very impressive. Whatever happens, kudos to him.”
The 60-year-old Fangio, the oldest of the five candidates on Elway’s short list, just completed his 32nd season on an NFL sideline and his 34th in professional football. He has never been a head coach. He previously interviewed for jobs as head coach with three other NFL teams — the then-San Diego Chargers in 1997, the San Francisco 49ers in 2015 and the Bears last year. The Miami Dolphins were interested this year but never scheduled an interview, according to the NFL Network.
“If he wants to be a head coach one day, we want him to take a job to be a head coach,” Bears safety Adrian Amos told reporters Monday. “Everybody just wishes him well.”
Looking for his fourth head coach in six years after firing Vance Joseph a week ago, Elway also has reportedly interviewed former Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano and Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak (both 58), New England Patriots defensive play-caller Brian Flores (37) and Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor (35).
Fangio turned the Bears’ defense into the NFL’s best this season, a unit solidified following the September acquisition of Mack in a trade with the Oakland Raiders.
The Bears led the league in takeaways (36), interceptions (27), lowest passer rating (72.9), three-and-out percentage (26.8), fewest rushing touchdowns (five), fewest rushing yards per game (80.0) and scoring (17.7 points per game). Besides Mack, Fangio’s unit included a lot of young talent.
“He’s an evil genius,” Mack told NFL.com in November. “The guy knows the game in and out and he knows his players, and ultimately, he wants the best for us out there on the field, so he puts us in positions to make plays.”
Mack finished with 12 1/2 sacks, 47 total tackles and a career-high six forced fumbles with the Bears, who also have three other Pro Bowl selections on their defense: lineman Akiem Hicks, cornerback Kyle Fuller and safety Eddie Jackson. Mack, Fuller and Jackson were also first-team All-Pro selections.
“I say this positively: just knowing that he’s not getting younger — with him, if he aspires to be a head coach, I would say that his time is now,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said of Fangio. “And he’s worked hard to put himself in a position to be sought after, as he is.
“Of course, as a defensive group and I’m sure everyone in this organization would love for him to stay and not go and get interviews. But we do understand that this could be something, a goal that he’s aspired to achieve. Me personally, I support him. But also, selfishly, I would love for him to stay.”