4:30pm: The Bears (on Twitter) announced the hiring of Fangio.
10:01am: After mulling over his decision for several days, Vic Fangio has decided to join John Fox‘s staff with the Bears, reports Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter links). According to La Canfora, the former 49ers defensive coordinator drew significant interest from both Chicago and Washington, and finally made his decision this morning.
Fangio had been considered a candidate for the 49ers’ head coaching opening, but was passed over in favor of fellow Niners assistant Jim Tomsula. At that point, the team agreed to release the defensive coordinator from his contract to pursue other opportunities. Fangio interviewed for the DC jobs in Chicago and Washington, and according to La Canfora, both teams “wanted him badly.”
After ranking 13th in DVOA in 2013, Fangio’s defense in San Francisco improved in Football Outsiders’ rankings in 2014, placing fifth overall. The Niners became a top-five defense despite being without suspended linebacker Aldon Smith for much of the season, and injured linebacker NaVorro Bowman for the entire season. Patrick Willis and first-round rookie Jimmie Ward also finished the year on injured reserve.
Having landed Fangio, the Bears figure to turn their attention to locking up an offensive coordinator. The team has reportedly been denied permission to speak to Mike Mularkey of the Titans and Jim Bob Cooter of the Lions, and has also been linked to Colts assistant Rob Chudzinski.
La Canfora adds (via Twitter) that former 49ers defensive backs coach Ed Donatell will also likely be joining Fangio in Chicago in the same role. Donatell was released from his Niners contract at the same time as Fangio, and the duo was viewed as a potential package deal.
As for Washington, the team appeared set to hire Chargers assistant Joe Barry as its defensive coordinator before Fangio became available, so it would make sense to revisit that possibility. John Keim of ESPN.com tweets as much, suggesting that – based on conversations he has had – Barry “has to be at the top of the list now” for Washington.