Vic Fangio has left the Bears after four seasons as defensive coordinator to become the head coach of the Denver Broncos.
Fangio has spent 32 years as an NFL assistant, including 19 as a defensive coordinator with the Panthers (1995-98), Colts (1999-2001), Texans (2002-05), 49ers (2011-14) and Bears (2015-18). But this is his first opportunity to be a head coach.
"I want to thank Vic for his last four seasons as our defensive coordinator and wish him the best as head coach of the Denver Broncos," Bears general manager Ryan Pace said in a statement.
"Vic was a key leader in bringing great defense back to Chicago. We will continue to build upon the foundation he helped establish. Under the leadership of head coach Matt Nagy and the rest of his coaching staff, we are confident in the development and improvement of a talented defensive unit."
In 2018, Fangio coordinated a defense that led the NFL in fewest points per game (17.7), takeaways (36), interceptions (27), interception return touchdowns (5), lowest opponent passer rating (72.9) and fewest rushing yards per game (80.0).
Fangio joins the Broncos after helping the Bears win the NFC North title for the first time since 2010 and register 12 victories for the first time since they went 13-3 en route to capturing the NFC championship in 2006.
"I figured this day would come," said cornerback Prince Amukamara. "I'm definitely happy for him but selfishly wanted him to stay here. Your window to be a head coach isn't wide for very long, so you have to strike while the iron is hot."
A year ago, Fangio was one of six candidates to interview for the Bears' head-coaching job. After Nagy was hired, he retained Fangio as coordinator along with the rest of the defensive staff.
"I want to congratulate Vic on his opportunity of becoming a head coach in the NFL," Nagy said in a statement. "There are only 32 of these jobs in the world and I know what it means to him to get his chance in Denver.
"I also want to thank him for all his help in my first season with the Chicago Bears. It is bittersweet to move on, but he has more than earned this opportunity and I could not be happier for him."
Under Fangio, four Bears defensive players were voted to the Pro Bowl this season: outside linebacker Khalil Mack, tackle Akiem Hicks, cornerback Kyle Fuller and safety Eddie Jackson. In addition, Mack, Fuller and Jackson were all selected first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press.
"He's a great mind, a great defensive coordinator," said safety Adrian Amos Jr. "I learned a lot from him just about scheme and what to expect and things like that. He's a great coach. We all want to accomplish our goals and if becoming a head coach was his dream, then I'm happy for him."
In each of Fangio's four seasons with the 49ers from 2011-14, they ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in points and yards. Under his tutelage, five players were named first-team All-Pro: Linebackers NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith; tackle Justin Smith and safety Dashon Goldson.
When Fangio joined the Bears in 2015, he helped transform a unit that had ranked 30th in the NFL in total yards in each of the previous two years into a defense that finished 14th in 2015, 15th in 2016, 10th in 2017 and 3rd in 2018.
"He helped revive my career," Amukamara said. "He knows how to put his defensive players in great positions to make plays. You see why every year we've been ascending, and credit goes to him for that."
Whoever replaces Fangio with the Bears will coordinate a defense that has 10 of 11 starters under contract at least through next season, with Amos being the only member of the No. 1 unit due to become a free agent.
"I'm sure we'll pick up right where we left off," said linebacker Roquan Smith, who led the Bears with 122 tackles as a rookie in 2018. "We just have to continue to stay hungry. We've got a lot of great guys; I don't think that's going to change. We'll just have to stay true to who we are and get behind a new coach."