NFC South rivals are the first to bring in Vic Fangio for interviews. After interviewing for the Panthers’ defensive coordinator position, the respected defensive coach is meeting with the Falcons on Wednesday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.
Fangio, who took this season off, has said his NFL return would likely be as a coordinator. The former Broncos HC will undoubtedly have extensive options, given his resume. The Falcons have already reached out to Brian Flores and Al Holcomb about the job Dean Pees recently vacated, and Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes the former — his place in the Cardinals’ HC derby notwithstanding — has shown interest in the gig.
Flores has never held the defensive coordinator title, residing as a position coach in New England and Pittsburgh and a head coach in Miami. But the Patriots employed Flores as a de facto DC in 2018, after Matt Patricia left for the Lions. And Flores shined in that season, which ended in a sixth Pats Super Bowl title thanks largely to a defense that limited the Rams to three points in Super Bowl LIII.
Flores’ Dolphins tenure became rather polarizing, especially in the wake of his discrimination lawsuit after a surprise 2022 firing, but he has continued to generate interest around the league. Four teams interviewed him for their HC positions last year, and the Cardinals are planning on an interview soon. Arizona hiring ex-Patriots executive Monti Ossenfort as GM has drawn a line to Flores, who was in New England for most of Ossenfort’s tenure with the team.
The Falcons could be a fallback option for Flores, who was in the running for the Browns’ DC gig until the end (when the team hired Jim Schwartz). But Fangio is one of the most experienced defensive coaches in NFL history. A staffer dating back to the mid-1980s, Fangio was a DC for five teams — including the Panthers, back in the ’90s — prior to his Broncos HC stay. Fangio concepts are being used around the league, and his top-tier 49ers defenses helped bolster Jim Harbaugh‘s reputation. Fangio elevated the Bears to a No. 1 defense in 2018, leading to his Broncos opportunity. While injuries and and the Broncos’ evergreen quarterback problem doomed Fangio’s HC chance, it certainly appears he will be back in the league soon.
It will be interesting to see if Fangio takes an early DC offer or waits out some of the HC hires — and Sean Payton‘s decision, considering the two were linked recently — to see what other jobs are available.