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Bears

Hub Arkush: With Vic Fangio gone, who do Bears hire as defensive coordinator?

Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio watches before a game against the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 24, 2017, at Soldier Field. Denver Broncos general manager John Elway has decided on Fangio as his new head coach.
Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio watches before a game against the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 24, 2017, at Soldier Field. Denver Broncos general manager John Elway has decided on Fangio as his new head coach.

Vic Fangio is an outstanding coach and a really good guy who more than earned his crack at a head coaching job years ago, and I wish him nothing but the best since this is obviously what he wanted most.

That said, is Denver going to be a smart move for Fangio?

Having Gary Kubiak to do for him on offense what he did for Bears coach Matt Nagy this year on defense, assuming Fangio approaches the relationship the same way, is a great start.

From there, things get murky.

The Broncos’ current ownership structure is the least stable in the NFL. When it is settled, how stable will Fangio’s new boss John Elway’s job be?

Until then, Elway is among the league’s more difficult executives to work for, and if reports that he will oversee the hiring of Fangio’s staff are anywhere near true, that is a recipe for disaster.

Fangio has enough talent on defense to be good quickly.

But with Case Keenum recently playing more like, well, Case Keenum, than the guy who led the Vikings in 2017, the Broncos probably need to start all over at quarterback, again.

For every head coach who succeeds, dozens fail. Let’s hope Fangio doesn’t end up regretting this move.

From where the Bears sit, certainly they knew this was a real possibility and must have had a plan if Fangio left.

Many assumed it would be Todd Bowles replacing Fangio because of his long history with the Nagy family, but that won’t happen because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a coaching decision fraught with concerns that worked for Bowles.

Bruce Arians resigned as coach of the Cardinals 12 months ago because of family and health concerns, and he is 66 years old.

What exactly could Arians have done in the past year to eliminate all those concerns?

Apparently the Glazer brothers are most interested in Arians the quarterback whisperer working with Jameis Winston and are willing to take risks.

Why would Bowles – who does have an equally strong relationship with Arians as the Nagy family, or apparently stronger – choose the Bucs/Arians’ murky waters and one of the NFL’s worst defenses in 2018 – 27th in total defense and 31st in points allowed – over the Bears with the consensus best defensive coordinator job in football?

One source close to the situation opined to me that Bowles knows if he can turn the Bucs around, Arians isn’t likely back for long, and if Arians leaves again in a year or two, the Bucs could be Bowles’ most direct path back to a head coaching job.

With Bowles unavailable, the Bears have an excellent in-house candidate in secondary coach Ed Donatell, who has four years of coordinator experience with the Packers, three years with the Falcons and one year in Washington. Donatell is coming off a fantastic year coaching the secondary.

Some believe, however, he will go with Fangio to be his coordinator.

Bears defensive line coach Jay Rodgers would be a bolder choice, but sources around the league tell me he’s ready after 10 years in the NFL. He has done a great job with Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols and Roy Robertson-Harris.

If the Bears look outside, and he doesn’t go right back to Carolina, where he did an outstanding job as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator, Steve Wilks could be interesting.

Wilks was the Bears’ secondary coach from 2006 to 2008.

Another hot prospect – if he doesn’t get one of the last three head coaching jobs, and they can pry him out of Dallas, where Rod Marinelli has the coordinator job – would be Kris Richard, who was outstanding overseeing the Seattle defense from 2015 to 2017.

Other names my sources have shared are Jets defensive line coach Mike Caldwell, Chuck Pagano (who is from Boulder, Colorado, and also could be Fangio’s guy out there) and Greg Williams, who is arguably the best of the veterans but whose baggage probably is too heavy.

Of course, there is always a chance Nagy has a surprise up his sleeve, a lesser-known position coach, defensive coordinator in waiting in whom he sees the same things Andy Reid saw in him, and I’m told not to rule out Chiefs defensive backs coach Al Harris as a possibility.

• Hub Arkush is executive editor of Pro Football Weekly. Write to him at harkush@profootballweekly.com, and follow him on Twitter
@Hub_Arkush.

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