Vic Fangio: It was ‘hard to leave’ Bears, but they’ll ‘do fine’

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Broncos head coach Vic Fangio speaks at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Wednesday. | Michael Conroy/AP photo

INDIANAPOLIS — Vic Fangio had been waiting his entire life for his first head-coaching opportunity. When it finally came last month with the Broncos, Fangio paused.

“On the surface it looks like a no-brainer, an easy decision,” the former Bears defensive coordinator said Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “But it was difficult. Just everything that I had there going in Chicago, it was hard to leave.”

He said the most difficult part was leaving the players that formed the league’s best defensive unit in 2018.

“You don’t always have the synergy or the camaraderie coach-to-player as the group that we had there,” Fangio said. “You can’t produce that. It just happens over time. We had that, and that was hard to leave.”

Fangio says the Bears will “do fine” under new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, who will run a 3-4 scheme similar to the one Fangio orchestrated for four seasons.

“The players haven’t changed, and the players are the most important thing,” he said. “Chuck will do fine with those guys. There’ll be some carryover, as there are from a lot of systems. But I don’t think they’ll have much problems.”

It’s a tough act to follow.

“Chuck, he’s got tons of experience, and we had that [in] Vic, right?” coach Matt Nagy said. “What Vic did with this defense, who knows if you’ll see that again. Hopefully you will next year with us.

“But I give a lot of credit to Vic. He has been in it for a long time. And he also built that relationship with those players over time.”

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Pagano rebuilt the Bears’ defensive staff, keeping only defensive line coach Jay Rodgers and promoting former quality control coach Sean Desai to safeties coach. Fangio took two assistants with him to Denver — defensive backs coach Ed Donatell, who he named coordinator, and outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley.

“Obviously, with Ed, there’s eight years of working together — and quality work,” Fangio said. “We’ve done well together. Brandon is a good young coach who I have a lot of confidence in. He knows our system. So it’s been helpful to have those two guys during the transition.”

When asked about the Bears for the first time Wednesday, Fangio smiled.

“The Bears? Who are they?” he said. “Is that the Blakely Bears that I used to play in high school?”

It was clear, though, that he won’t forget his defensive players.

“What we were doing fit them,” he said. “They believed in it. They’ll be able to keep it going.”

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