Vic Fangio makes no secret he would like to be a head coach. Last offseason, when the Packers fired the maligned Dom Capers, Fangio was one of the candidates whom Green Bay most coveted. Once Mike McCarthy got his walking papers and the Bears defense dominated the Rams on national television, connecting the dots was easy.
It’s just not the right move for the Packers.
Of course, it hasn’t just been one game that makes Fangio an appealing option. He built a dominating 49ers defense during their mini-run with Jim Harbaugh, one that stymied Aaron Rodgers more than once. His work with sub-par talent early in his Chicago tenure deserves its own plaudits, but even with Khalil Mack, Fangio should be lauded for his work turning the Bears into a suffocating defense in an era where such things were thought to be impossible.
Fangio is one of the NFL’s true mad scientists, happiest tinkering in the lab with ways to stop opposing offenses. He’s a little gruff, but not particularly outspoken and while he provides outstanding defensive coaching and scheme, there’s little evidence to suggest he’s the kind of alpha personality to come in and immediately demand the respect of a veteran football team set on winning a Super Bowl ASAMFP.
Some have suggested the Packers need the new coach to inject accountability and discipline into the team, hold Aaron Rodgers to a higher standard and put his damn foot down. That’s not true.
Mike McCarthy was an outstanding culture-setting coach and CEO of the Packers program. His voice simply ran its course. Fangio would likely represent a step back in terms of setting a Lombardi standard (as one former coach might put it). What the Packers need is a forward thinking coach with progressive ideologies about coaching, scheme, and personnel deployment.
The calculation should be simple: the defense doesn’t have a coaching problem, it has a talent problem. The offense doesn’t have a talent problem, it has a coaching problem. So how does Fangio solve this exactly?
If the answer to offensive stagnation is a hot young OC candidate, then just hire the offensive coach to begin with. More than likely the Zac Taylors of the world, even if successful, would be on their way to head coaching jobs in two years and then the team has to start over as Rodgers’ powers wain.
What problem does Fangio solve that can’t be solved by Mike Pettine, another year of continuity, and some improved talent? The 49ers had Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Aldon Smith and a deep group of role players. The Bears have Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson. That’s not underselling what Fangio has done, simply pointing out he’s been successful with more raw talent than the Packers currently have.
A 60-year-old coordinator who hasn’t been an NFL head coach and doesn’t seem ideally suited from a personality standpoint to be one isn’t the answer to the Packers falling behind other top offenses with Aaron Rodgers. Fangio is closer to Social Security than a Super Bowl, making him a wonky fit on a team in need of an offensive overhaul. Pete Carroll is the oldest head coach in football and doesn’t suffer from a lack of foresight, but he was also a successful veteran coach with impossible reservoirs of energy when he got to Seattle. Replacing an old school coach with an old school coach to fix complacency in an old school way of doing business simply doesn’t follow.
The culture isn’t broken in Green Bay, and even if it were, there’s little evidence to suggest Fangio could piece it back together. The whole defense, to a man, lauded Pettine for bringing accountability back in a post-Capers world. Is Fangio’s schematic advantage over Pettine so large that Mark Murphy and Gutekunst ought to eschew better offensive coaching options in the head spot?
Fangio’s defense should worry the Packers on Sunday when the team attempts to save its season and keep playoff hopes alive. But that’s not reason enough to hire him as the man to succeed Mike McCarthy.