By: Johnny Hatelak
One of the things that stood out about the Matt Nagy press conference Tuesday at Halas Hall was how apathetic he was to whether they’ll run even or odd fronts on defense. With that said, he also admitted that he is considering Vic Fangio as a legitimate candidate for the Defensive Coordinator position, and has spoken to him in regards to it on his radio interview on WSCR 670 the Score’s Bernstein and Goff midday show.
All signs point to the retention of Fangio and his staff as Bears General Manager Ryan Pace’s preference. Just by the denial alone of Fangio interviewing with the Bengals this past Saturday screams this out loud. It now appears that was to buy time to convince Fangio to stay and to talk with Nagy in regards to the position. That also points to the Bears already having their minds made up on Nagy even before the interview as this rumored block took place the day before the interview.
This makes sense because it does keep continuity on one side of the ball, a defense that finished in the top ten in many of the important categories in spite of dealing with devastating injuries. It also keeps an entire staff in place, where players are familiar with their coaching style on top of practice and game prep routines along with scheme and terminology.
Keeping Fangio in Chicago also fills the need of an experienced coordinator who can run a successful program on that side of the ball without much interference from Nagy. Overall game planning and play calling as well as personnel implementation will be solely the responsibility of whoever gets hired to run the defensive unit. For this reason, I do not see some young hotshot NFL position coach or some up and comer College coordinator getting the defensive coordinator position. Re-hiring Fangio checks a lot of boxes.
Although Fangio would likely present the best scenario for the Bears and is their top choice for the reasons explained prior, it isn’t a make or break scenario. There are a lot of possible hires that check the same boxes available at current. A lot of fans and some media types may harp on the 3-4 angle but as Nagy explained in his presser, most of the league runs nickel defense more than half of the time which generally implements even fronts (typically 4 down linemen).
Fangio himself has run most of his defense out of a 40 front since becoming a defensive coordinator and that was certainly the case this season. So running a 3-4 front is really not as big of a deal as one might think. The Bears run an extremely hybrid defense which includes scheme versatile players.
Both Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks can play under or over fronts as the 3 technique and Nose Tackle. Both have positional versatility in that sense and that’s where most straight up 3-4 fronts have issues finding replacements because of the need for a giant nose tackle. There are no teams to my knowledge that run a straight up Oakie front. Even Wade Phillips who ran an Oakie 3-4 for years is running a hybrid front to tailor his scheme around his personnel (namely Aaron Donald) and not force players to play a scheme they don’t fit in. That’s just good coaching.
The switch may affect Leonard Floyd’s role however as he’s not a 4 down 4-3 defensive end. He would likely have to switch to the Sam or Will Linebacker position and be utilized as a pass rusher on blitz packages which is pretty much the same as a stand-up edge defender on passing downs in a 3-4 look. They’ll also have to cut some their Inside linebackers which may spell trouble for guys like John Timu and Jonathan Anderson. The game has changed drastically and the same stereotypes that used to apply 5-8 years ago do not apply now. The Bears may have to go and get a 4-3 End to play on obvious run downs to hold the edge too. Not a drastic undertaking.
I’ll be covering some of the options for the Defensive Coordinator position as well as other assistant coaching positions and cover the scheme’s they run in an upcoming article I’m currently working on. Stay tuned!