The Falcons interviewed Vic Fangio for their defensive coordinator job but went in another direction. The Panthers look to be planning a stronger push to bring in the acclaimed defensive mind.
Frank Reich is targeting Fangio to be his DC in Carolina, Josina Anderson of CBS Sports reports (on Twitter). While Fangio has also met with the Dolphins and may have a 49ers return in his back pocket, Anderson adds momentum is building toward a Fangio-Reich partnership. Fangio, 64, interviewed with the Panthers last week.
This would be a reunion for Fangio, who was the Panthers’ first DC back in 1995. Reich was on that roster, serving as the team’s starting quarterback for its first three games before moving into a backup role behind then-rookie Kerry Collins. Fangio stuck around in Carolina longer than Reich the first time around, lasting in that DC position through the 1998 season.
Reich and Fangio have otherwise not overlapped, and given the interest in the veteran coordinator, Anderson adds it could take making him the league’s highest-paid DC to finalize this reunion. After the Broncos fired Fangio last January, he has re-emerged as one of the most sought-after coordinator candidates. It will be interesting to see if the well-traveled defensive boss will accept a Carolina offer or wait for one of the other DC jobs — potentially San Francisco’s or with one of the teams still searching for a head coach — to open up.
Prior to coming to Denver, Fangio earned Assistant Coach of the Year acclaim for his work with the 2018 Bears. Chicago led the NFL in scoring defense that season — a 12-4 campaign that earned Matt Nagy Coach of the Year acclaim — and Fangio churned out productive Denver defenses despite repeated issues keeping Von Miller and Bradley Chubb healthy at the same time. Fangio also played a significant role in the 49ers’ back-to-back-to-back NFC championship game appearances in the early 2010s. Fangio has coached in the NFL since 1986 and has been a coordinator for five teams.
While Reich and Fangio would present quite the experienced play-calling tandem, the Panthers also have Marquand Manuel on their radar. The Jets assistant interviewed for the position, and ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler notes (on Twitter) the former Falcons DC impressed Panthers brass during the meeting. The Jets’ safeties coach for the past two seasons, Manuel was the Falcons’ DC from 2017-18. The former safety who spent the 2007 season with the Panthers interviewed with the team before Reich’s hire, like Fangio, but he was in Seattle during part of GM Scott Fitterer‘s tenure in the Seahawks’ front office.
Reich’s vision for his staff helped sway the Panthers to hire him, Joe Person of The Athletic adds (subscription required), so how Carolina’s assistant cadre comes together will be interesting to observe. Fangio is one of the biggest names on the market, and considering the options he probably has, it would be quite the get for Reich to start his second-chance HC opportunity.