This much we knew: After four straight seasons of leading a top-5 defense, Vic Fangio was out as the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive coordinator.
The promotion of defensive line coach Jim Tomsula over Fangio as the team's head coach ensured it.
Fangio’s landing spot, though, was the mystery. Washington was hot and heavy after him, and the Niners even denied the Redskins permission to talk to him about their vacant DC position while he was still under contract (though he would eventually interview twice with Washington).
Fangio eventually landed with the Bears, joining John Fox’s staff in Chicago. San Francisco, which has yet to hire an offensive coordinator, let alone a DC under Tomsula, visits Chicago next season.
Fangio actually interviewed for the Niners’ gig early in the process and was endorsed by inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who missed the entire season while still recuperating from the left knee injury he suffered in last January’s NFC title game.
“We’ve just built so much,” Bowman said the day after the season finale. “There’s a lot of chemistry…with him. I just think that’s a great thing that we have, and we don’t want to lose that.”
Last season, the Niners also lost inside linebacker Patrick Willis after just six games to a toe injury, were without outside linebacker Aldon Smith for the first nine games as he served a league-mandated suspension and even Willis’ replacement, rookie Chris Borland, was lost with an ankle injury with two games to go.
Then came the release of defensive end Ray McDonald after the Niners were eliminated from the playoffs. He is being investigated for sexual assault.
Despite all this, the Niners, who run a 3-4 scheme, still had the No. 5 total defense in the NFL under Fangio.
The Bears, who ran a 4-3 alignment, were ranked No. 30.
Fangio vs. the Niners in the Windy City? The schedule for that game will come out in April.