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‘Irresponsible reporting’: Vic Fangio denies rift with John Fox

Bears coach John Fox isn’t going to win a credibility war with the media, but defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is a different story.

While Fox is a typically paranoid NFL coach who resorts to all sorts of coach-speak maneuvers to avoid telling us what’s really going on, Fangio is the most no-B.S. guy at Halas Hall. He doesn’t give away game plans, but he also acknowledges reality in a professional way that respects the media’s right-to-ask and Bears fans’ need-to-know.

So it’s no surprise that while both Fox and Fangio denied a Tribune report that Fangio could be out as defensive coordinator after this season because of philosophical differences between the two, Fangio’s more aggressive denial and charge of “irresponsible reporting” by Tribune contributing columnist and WSCR-AM host Mike Mulligan resonated the most Wednesday.

“It gives you guys a bad name,” Fangio told reporters during his weekly press conference. “He’s one of your colleagues, and irresponsible reporting doesn’t shine well for all of you, and that’s too bad because … I enjoy talking to you guys.”

Vic Fangio is a free agent. (AP)

For the record, Fangio said he wants to return next season and expects to return next season. Fox said he wants Fangio back (“I want our whole staff back.”) and indicated that the only way Fangio wouldn’t be back is if he got a head coaching job.

As for the crux of the report — that there is friction between Fox and Fangio — Fangio said his relationship with Fox is “fine, nothing changed either way,” and said only a smidgen of disagreement existed between them. “We pretty much do what I see fit to do 98 percent of the time,” Fangio said.

Anybody familiar with the NFL knows that two percent is a low number when it comes to one coach disagreeing with another. “I’m always going to leave you a little bit there,” Fangio joked when asked about that two percent. “That’s just the way it is.”

Fangio, who spoke to reporters after Fox, said he was unaware of the report until Fox talked to him about it Wednesday at Halas Hall. “He told me about it because he was all nervous about it,” Fangio said. “So I said, ‘Don’t worry about it.’

Why was Fox worried about it? “Because it wasn’t true and he thought I might take it the wrong way.”

Fox struggled to address the Fangio issue precisely, but he’s like that on almost any subject. “I read that [report] and as it relates to our staff, I think our staff is tremendous,” Fox said. “I think right now, if you flash back two years ago, this defense was [30th] in the league [in yards allowed]; right now it is seventh.

“I think you even look at offensively, similar numbers even from a year ago. We were [21st in yards]. This offense is 16th. So, with going on our fourth quarterback, I couldn’t be more proud of our staff. I’ll just leave it at … I am very, very pleased with our staff.”

Asked about his working relationship with Fangio, Fox put it in relative terms — which, whether he realizes it or not, still leaves room for doubt. “When you spend as much time as we do as coaches, I think we get along great,” Fox said.

And he bristled slightly when asked if the dynamic between a defensive-minded head coach and his defensive coordinator can be difficult. “Yeah, I think when you get reports like this,” Fox snapped, “I think it makes it all difficult.”

As Halas Hall episodes go, this is barely a tremor. Two years ago this week, offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer tearfully apologized to his players for being the anonymous source behind an NFL Network report criticizing Jay Cutler. Five years ago this month, wide receiver Sam Hurd was arrested for attempting to buy enough cocaine and marijuana to become a drug kingpin.

This one seems like much ado about nothing, but we’ll see about that. It seems incredulous that John Fox would think his team is better served without Vic Fangio. But — with all due respect to Fangio’s credibility — stranger things have happened at Halas Hall.