News

Bears upgrade their coaching staff: Vic Fangio with OLBs

MOBILE, Ala. — The Bears quickly found replacements for Dave Magazu, Stan Drayton and Sam Garnes on their coaching staff but are in no hurry to replace outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt because they’ve already got one of the best in the business.

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is assuming Hurtt’s responsibilities until further notice, and — no offense to Hurtt — if that sticks, it’s an upgrade.

Fangio initially made his mark in the NFL as an outstanding linebackers coach under Jim Mora Sr. with the Saints from 1986 to ’94. Under Fangio’s tutelage, the Saints had 16 linebackers make the Pro Bowl in nine seasons. The “Dome Patrol” of Pat Swilling, Rickey Jackson, Sam Mills and Vaughan Johnson was voted the best linebacker corps in NFL history by NFL Network.

Swilling, a third-round draft pick in 1986, was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1991 and made the Pro Bowl five times and the All-Pro team twice. In 1992, the entire ‘‘Dome Patrol’’ made the Pro Bowl, including Jackson at 34.

Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio made his mark in the NFL as a linebackers coach with the New Orleans Saints. "I think he's a good teacher, and he brings good results," coach John Fox said. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

As defensive coordinator of the 49ers, Fangio had his hand in the linebackers room, and it showed. Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks rivaled the ‘‘Dome Patrol.’’

It was no surprise that Fangio embraced the new responsibility.

“I like coaching,” Fangio said Wednesday after the North team’s Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. “It does take a little bit more time and effort. But I’ve done it before, so that part doesn’t worry me.

“That’s the way I’ve done it most places I’ve been. I did it that way all four years in San Francisco, and the other places I’ve been, I’ve usually done that. It’s not something new.”

So the more hands-on Fangio is with the linebackers — especially with Leonard Floyd coming off an impressive rookie season and Pernell McPhee in his prime at 28 — the better. He seems to get more out of them that way.

“It has turned out that way in the past,” Fangio said.

Floyd, who had seven sacks and a fumble recovery for a touchdown last season — all in a five-game stretch — has a chance to make a quantum leap in 2017. Fangio said he wants Floyd to come into camp in top shape and hopefully stay healthy. Floyd missed four games with three injuries last season, including two concussions.

“I don’t think he was in the best of shape when we got him last year, which happens to some guys when they go through all this draft preparation,” Fangio said. “Get him in better shape and keep him available so he can go through a whole offseason and training camp to where he can play.

“That one stretch in the middle third of the season where he was practicing and playing a good bit, you saw him make good strides. And then he had a couple of concussions late in the season, which slowed him down. If we can get him out there and playing [consistently], he’ll be fine.”

After a difficult 2016 season, Fangio is eager to get his hands dirty. Reports that friction between him and coach John Fox would lead to his ouster proved unfounded. And Fangio dismissed reports that the 49ers requested to talk to him about their defensive coordinator job, denying he was contacted.

“I wouldn’t say that,” Fangio said. “There are a lot of things that go on this time of year, just hearsay stuff and this, that and the other thing. So nothing really there.”

Asked if he would be interested once the 49ers hire a head coach, Fangio said, “No. I’m under contract here, so that’s just the way it is.”

Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com