SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Former 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will accept the same position with the Chicago Bears, along with his secondary coach of the last four seasons Ed Donatell, according to multiple reports.
Fangio's defenses in San Francisco never ranked below fifth in the NFL in total yardage since taking over as coordinator in 2011. His simplistic scheme kept the field balanced, allowing play makers Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Aldon Smith, and others, to excel since coming from Stanford with Jim Harbaugh.
In 2014, San Francisco turned over most of its secondary, didn't have Bowman for the entire year, lost Willis after five and a half games to a toe injury, and dealt with a nine-game suspension for Smith. And still, Fangio's defense ranked fifth in the NFL.
Fangio and Donatell were not retained after the team hired former defensive line coach Jim Tomsula to become the team's 19th head coach last week. Fangio was in the running and was initially blocked from interviewing for jobs elsewhere, indicating the 49ers were serious about making him Harbaugh's replacement.
If made 49ers head coach, it was believed Fangio would have made Donatell his defensive coordinator. Fangio interviewed with Washington over the weekend.
After the final regular season game, defensive players campaigned for Fangio's return. He had a very good rapport with many of his players, particularly Bowman.
"I would like to see Vic Fangio, whether that’s head coach or DC, I would like to see him here. That’s my answer to that," Bowman said, who was a first-team All-Pro in each of his three seasons starting under Fangio.
"We’ve just built so much. There’s a lot of chemistry there with the guy that’s been here the three or four years that’s with him. I just think that’s a great thing that we have and we don’t want to lose that."
The Bears 4-3 defense finished 30th in the NFL last year. Fangio typically employs a 3-4 defensive front, but it remains to be seen if the Bears are committed to making that switch. New head coach John Fox, a former defensive coordinator, has also used 3-4 defenses in the past, most recently during his time as the head coach of the Denver Broncos.
The Fangio and Donatell pairing is a good news for the Bears. Since the start of 2012, their defenses have gone 4-0 against Aaron Rodgers' Green Bay Packers, the Bears' biggest rival. They allowed an average 336 yards in those games, including two playoff wins.
The 49ers have not yet found Fangio or Donatell's replacements. Former Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver will reportedly be added to Tomsula's staff, but in what capacity remains unknown.