Packers Head Coach Candidate: Vic Fangio
Vic Fangio is as decorated a defensive coach as there is in the league. He has coached high-level defenses at several pro stops and in major college football, and at 60 years old, it may finally be time for him to get a shot at the top job.
The Packers have historically been offensively focused, but in an era of unprecedented, rapid change, perhaps a defensive-minded coach could be just what the doctor ordered.
The details on Vic Fangio
Most recent job: Defensive Coordinator of the Chicago Bears (2015 - present)
Record as a head coach: 0-0
First job: Defensive Coordinator for Milford (CT) Academy (1982)
Packers connection: Fangio coached with current Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine with the Baltimore Ravens from 2006 through 2008 and coached extensively with former Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers throughout his career. He was also reportedly Mike McCarthy’s top choice for the Packers’ vacant defensive coordinator position last offseason.
The background on Vic Fangio
Fangio is one thing and one thing only: a defensive coach. While many of the other candidates we’ve profiled have dabbled on both sides of the ball, Fangio has lived and died as a defensive coach.
After a brief stint as a small college coach, Fangio made his professional debut in 1984 as a defensive assistant for the Baltimore Stars of the USFL. The Stars were the USFL’s most successful team, appearing in three consecutive championship games from 1983 through 1985, winning the latter two.
Fangio spent 1985 out of coaching, but jumped to the NFL in 1986, signing on with the New Orleans Saints. There, Fangio connected with defensive backs coach Dom Capers, establishing a relationship which would prove profitable for both sides for years to come.
When Capers was named the head coach of the expansion Carolina Panthers in 1995, he brought Fangio along as his defensive coordinator. They worked there together until 1998 when Capers was fired. After a few seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, Fangio rejoined Capers in Houston, where his longtime friend had again been named the head coach of an expansion team. They coached together there through 2005 when Capers was fired.
From there, Fangio made the second of three critical coaching connections, joining Rex Ryan’s defensive staff in Baltimore. Under Ryan, Fangio worked closely with current Packers’ defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, though Fangio stayed in Baltimore after Ryan’s departure for a head coaching position with the New York Jets.
In 2010, Fangio made the last but perhaps most important coaching connection of his career when he joined Jim Harbaugh’s staff at Stanford. After just one season there, Fangio followed Harbaugh to San Francisco, where he oversaw the most successful defenses of his career.
After Harbaugh left for Michigan, Fangio stayed in the NFL and joined the Chicago Bears. He’s been their defensive coordinator since 2015, though he briefly flirted with Green Bay following the departure of Dom Capers after the 2017 season. Fangio also interviewed to be Chicago’s head coach last offseason, but ultimately remained as their defensive coordinator. It proved to be a wise decision: Fangio’s defense is currently ranked in the top three in points, yards, and takeaways and the Bears are thriving.
Vic Fangio’s biggest moment
Though Fangio has coordinated eight different top 10 scoring defenses in his long and illustrious career, his most notable moment with the Bears could be their most recent performance.
Fangio’s defense utterly befuddled the high flying Los Angeles Rams and hotshot offensive mind Sean McVay on Sunday, holding All-Pro running back Todd Gurley to just 28 yards rushing and forcing Jared Goff into bad throw after bad throw. In a season defined by offense, Fangio’s defense was the story in one of the Bears’ most important games of the year.
In Vic Fangio’s own words
Fangio bears all the hallmarks of a football lifer. He’s held a college or professional coaching job every year but one since he was 24 years old. Now 60, Fangio still relishes the grind of the coaching profession for one simple reason: he loves football. He explained as much in a profile with the Chicago Sun-Times when he laid out his reasons for getting into coaching in the first place.
‘‘I got drawn to the schematic part of the game, the teaching part of the game, the technique part of the game, the game-day operations,” he said. “I just really liked it and fell in love with it.’’
What are the chances Vic Fangio is the next Packers head coach?
Jon’s Rating: 2.5/5
With respects to Mike Pettine, Fangio is the premier defensive coordinator in the NFL. He’s had success (and sustained success at that) everywhere he’s gone and shows no signs of slowing down at 60. If you want a defensive mind on your staff, Fangio is your guy.
As to becoming the head coach of the Packers, though, there are two significant questions.
First, does he want to be a head coach? A heralded coordinator of Fangio’s caliber surely would have had many opportunities to take a top job by now. Indeed, the Bears interviewed him for their head coaching position less than a year ago. It’s possible and completely reasonable that he doesn’t want to be the head coach.
Second, do the Packers want to focus on defense in their next head coach? Dating back to Mike Holmgren, all but one of the Packers last four coaches have had a strong offensive pedigree. Only Ray Rhodes came up on the defensive side of the ball. Is that a philosophy the Packers can embrace on a team-wide scale?
If Fangio is open to the job and the Packers are comfortable with a defensive-minded coaching taking the reins, he should be a contender. It’s just a question of how the Packers feel about those two significant considerations.
Gary’s Rating: 3/5
There’s this perception amongst fans born out of the nearly three straight winning decades that the Packers lead the way and other teams follow. Fangio’s hiring as Packers head coach would be a blemish against that perception. Murphy hiring a coach who has led defenses that have given the Packers offense fits is just about as far opposite from hiring a “Packers person” as you can get.
The upside on Fangio is the potential continuity on defense with Mike Pettine – the pair worked together in Baltimore – and taking away your division rival’s most successful coordinator.
It’s likely Fangio is interviewed if the Packers head coaching search continues after the Bears’ season concludes, and I think he’s likely a finalist for the position.