The next Tom Brady? Bears’ Vic Fangio hopes not

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Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler will make his first NFL start Sunday. (AP)

He says he doesn’t remember.

It’s because he’d like to forget.

Before anyone presents this week as a mismatch — grizzled defensive coordinator against a quarterback making his first career start — Vic Fangio has proof otherwise.

When he was the Colts’ coordinator in 2001, Fangio’s unit faced a 0-2 team whose quarterback was making his starting debut. The kid beat Fangio, 44-13, and led his team to a Super Bowl win.

His name: Tom Brady.

“You know how that turned out,” the Bears’ defensive coordinator said.

Pressed for details, Fangio coyly said he didn’t remember how he prepared for Brady. But Brady proved the impossible that game: For generations, defensive coordinators have hyped first-time starters as the league’s next great quarterback to get their players’ attention.

In Fangio’s case, he was actually right.

Odds are, the Broncos’ Brock Osweiler won’t be the next transcendent player when he makes his first start Sunday at Soldier Field. But Bears defenders say they’re being appropriately cautious about Peyton Manning’s replacement, despite their knowledge of him limited to 54 career pass attempts.

The other side of the Bears’ coaching staff, though, is familiar with the 6-foot-7 former Gonzaga basketball recruit. Head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase and others watched him practice their last three years in Denver.

Share Events on The CubeThe only mystery is how he fits in new head coach Gary Kubiak’s system. Fangio expects Kubiak to use him the way he did Joe Flacco when he ran the Ravens’ offense last year. Osweiler will be under center more than Manning, and likely run more roll-outs and bootlegs.

“There’s a book on every player in this league,” Fox said. “Obviously, his book’s not real thick because there hasn’t been a lot of playing time. How he fits in the offense, what they’ll try to do with him, I think we have a pretty good understanding of.”

It could feed right into Fangio’s hands. A master of defensive disguise, his handiwork figures to fare better against a first-time starter than veterans Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer and others he’s faced this season.

“Approaching a guy who’s never made an NFL start, you want to make it as confusing as possible for him, possibly,” cornerback Tracy Porter said. “But at the end of the day, you still have to execute in coverage. Rush and coverage, they have to work together, in getting to the quarterback and us making tight throws for them.

“Make him hold the ball more than he wants to.”

Fangio’s creativity should be on full display the rest of the season.

The Bears still have to play the back ends of their series against their three NFC North foes. Otherwise, the four remaining quarterbacks on their schedules are mere kids.

The most experienced is the 49ers’ Blaine Gabbert, whose 28 career starts are five fewer than last week’s victim, Nick Foles. The Redskins’ Kirk Cousins has 18 career starts, the Buccaneers’ Jameis Winston nine.

Squint, and it’s easy to see the Bears’ surprising defense padding their pass defense numbers. Only three teams have allowed fewer than their 217 passing yards per game, and only seven boast less than their 335.6 yards per game.

Fangio called the notion of confusing inexperienced quarterbacks is “a little overrated,” but there’s no question he’d rather face a newbie.

“Obviously the veteran guys react to things better,” he said. “But this guy’s played – I think this is his fourth year in the league – so he’s been around and he’s had the advantage of sitting with Peyton these last three years.

“You never know what’s going to happen with that.”

Just ask Tom Brady.

Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley

Email: pfinley@suntimes,com

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