Coach Kyle Shanahan wanted Vic Fangio to consider joining the 49ers this offseason. Fangio, though, already had a job — as the Bears’ defensive coordinator — and was off-limits.
“Vic was under contract, so I wasn’t able to get him,” Shanahan said this week. “And I don’t know if I’m even allowed to talk about that stuff. But if he wasn’t [employed], Vic’s a guy that I definitely would have been interested in and [I have] respected, just like I think pretty much anybody in the NFL would.
“Everybody knows Vic’s at the top of what he does and is a very good coordinator.”
Would Fangio be a good head coach?
“It takes one person to like ya,” Shanahan said. “And there’s not always a ton of spots open. I think everybody looks at each situation different, so you can’t explain what exactly one guy’s looking for because I think all 32 guys are looking for different things.
“But I think Vic definitely deserves to be one. He’s one of the coaches I’ve respected the most, just from going against him.”
Fangio has been one of the league’s most respected defensive minds for more than a generation — after coaching the Saints’ “Dome Patrol” of linebackers, he became a coordinator for the first time in 1995 — but hasn’t made the jump to head coach. He interviewed for only two head-coaching vacancies. One, with the Chargers, came 21 years ago. The other chance was with the 49ers in 2015. The team chose his defensive line coach, Jim Tomsula, to replace Jim Harbaugh instead. Tomsula lasted one year.
The most direct path to Fangio becoming a head coach — at least for a few games — is an ugly scenario for the Bears. Chairman George McCaskey said three months ago that the team would evaluate coach John Fox only after the season is over. It’s conceivable, though, that an embarrassing loss Sunday could force the Bears to hasten their timeline.
If they decided to fire Fox during the season, Fangio is an obvious interim coach on the surface — but it’s not that simple. There are concerns about letting Fangio run the team, even on an interim basis, after he turned down a contract extension this offseason. Fangio’s original three-year deal expires after this season.
If he fared well during a tryout, it could force the Bears to consider him long term. They’d be more interested in finding a coach to help mentor quarterback Mitch Trubisky than in promoting Fangio — even though he’s beloved by his players and helped turn around the league’s worst defense over the last three seasons.
As for other interim candidates, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is too light on experience. Besides, he needs to focus on developing Trubisky. Special-teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers is close to Fox, having accompanied him from Denver. The Bears don’t have position coaches with significant head-coaching experience. In Marc Trestman’s last year, they could’ve turned to special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis or even defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni, who was Syracuse’s coach from 1991 to 2004.
Preparing to face the 49ers for a third consecutive season, Fangio, who still has personal ties to the Bay Area, repeated Thursday that the game doesn’t carry any special meaning for him.
“It’s just one of 31 other teams,” he said.
Fangio acknowledged the 49ers’ interest but said the idea was “nixed and thrown out the door pretty quickly,” presumably when the Bears declined permission.
“That was just one of those things that happens during that time of year when coaching changes are made,” he said.
That time of year is coming around again.
Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.