Exploring the Bears’ case for keeping Vic Fangio — in some capacity

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Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio autographs for fans during an training camp. (AP)

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio spent part of last offseason getting to know cornerback Kyle Fuller by teaching him a thing or two about golf.

“I know he didn’t enjoy getting beat in golf,” Fangio joked just days before the Bears’ season finale against the Vikings.

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The Bears were determined to get something out of Fuller in 2017 after he missed all of the 2016 season following minor knee surgery that preseason. Fangio, who publicly questioned Fuller’s willingness to play, got involved.

“You spend enough time around people, you get to know them better,” Fuller said. “So I definitely feel like we’ve built a good relationship.”

Fangio never will be confused for a “players’ coach” a la John Fox, but Fangio’s connection with Fuller offered a glimpse into his potential for relationship-building.

On Wednesday, the Bears interviewed Fangio, 59, for their head-coaching vacancy. The move was expected. The team values what he has done for the defense during his three years in charge.

The Bears’ brass leaves for Minneapolis on Thursday to interview Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.

But Fangio’s candidacy shouldn’t be overlooked. He might not return as the head coach, but don’t rule out a possible pairing with an offensive-minded coach. There’s value in continuity, especially with the Bears having a young, emerging defense.

Fangio inherited a defense that statistically was the worst in Bears history over two years. This season — after significant changes in personnel over three offseasons — the Bears finished 10th in total defense. The Bears have a young core of players to build around, including defensive linemen Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman, safeties Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos and linebackers Leonard Floyd and Nick Kwiatkoski.

From a personality standpoint, Fangio is the opposite of Fox. He’s not full of jokes or stories. He’s private. But players appreciated his direct, no-nonsense approach.

Publicly, Fangio is even-keeled, but he is said to be fiery in the press box during games. He has a strong presence. His “Lord Fangio” nickname from his days at Stanford also carried over with some Bears coaches.

Fangio said in mid-December that he was “definitely interested” in seeing things through with the Bears’ defense. And several players said they would like Fangio to return, if possible.

“Most definitely, but that’s just me,” Floyd said. “I don’t really run [anything] much in the building. But that’s a great guy. I love him to death.”

Said cornerback Prince Amukamara: “Guys love him. We respect him. If I was here, I’d hope he stays.”

Said Goldman: “He gave you advice. You really could tell he knew the ins and outs of the game.”

And Fangio showed his personal connection with players could turn into better results, too. Fuller, the Bears’ first-round pick in 2014, is an example.

He was one of the Bears’ best players this year with two interceptions and a team-best 22 pass breakups.

“He’s been around the league for a long time,” Fuller said. “He’s seen a lot. He’s been through a lot.

‘‘[Being a head coach is] definitely something that he could provide for a team — players like myself.”

Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns.

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

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