MIAMI -- Vic Fangio spent the past year on a self-described “sabbatical” following his departure from the Denver Broncos after the 2021 season, doing exactly what you’d expect someone without a full-time job to do.
He lived in the beach town of Destin, Florida, played some golf, traveled -- and churned out a few hours a day of film study; he was still a football coach at heart, after all.
The recently hired Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator said he wasn’t ready to retire, which led to his return to the NFL sideline. The 2018 Assistant Coach of the Year was one of the most sought-after defensive coordinators available during this hiring cycle and chose the Dolphins based on what he’s seen from their staff and defensive core.
Living in Miami didn’t hurt, either.
“Well, I think the Dolphins have a good thing going here,” Fangio said. “I like Mike [McDaniel] and his staff that he already has in place here. I think there’s good components to the coaching staff, led by Mike, that made it intriguing to join that. I think there’s a good nucleus of players here.
“And the allure of South Florida.”
He’s tasked with turning around an underperforming unit from a season ago that ranked 18th in yards allowed per game, 24th in scoring and 21st in expected points added. Here are a few things to expect from the Dolphins’ Fangio-led defense.
New defensive schemes
The 36-year coaching veteran said he had “exposure to everything that any NFL coach had at that time” during his sabbatical, and used those resources to develop a few new schemes the Dolphins will install once they take the field for OTAs in May.
It’s hardly a surprise for one of the league’s most influential defensive playcallers over the past decade -- although he was also unsurprisingly vague on the details of his plans for Miami’s defense.
“There’s a few things that I came up with that I’m anxious to try. We’ll try them in OTAs at some point and then in training camp as a good fit for the other things we do,” he said. “But what’s going to be most important is tailoring what we do to our players and to the opponent that we’re playing for that week."
Whatever schemes he concocts will likely highlight safety Jevon Holland, who Fangio said he liked during preparation for the 2021 draft with the Broncos. Safeties have a history of thriving under Fangio, including Pro Bowlers Justin Simmons and Eddie Jackson of the Broncos and Chicago Bears, respectively.
The Dolphins defense was aggressive the past three years, blitzing more than any team except the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Under former defensive coordinator Josh Boyer, Miami was famous for implementing a Cover-0 blitz, which sends more pass-rushers than an offense has blockers.
Fangio was asked during his introductory press conference about his philosophy on blitzing.
“As needed and when I want to. Versus having to,” he said. “If you have to, that’s not a great feeling. You want to do it when you want to on your terms. Now, having said that, I can’t tell you what that means from a percentage standpoint.”
Fangio said he’s coached defenses that blitz frequently and others that did not -- it depends on the personnel at your disposal.
In Miami, however, he has a few players who excel at creating pressure.
Big year for Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips?
Fangio did not draft Bradley Chubb but did coach him for three injury-riddled seasons in Denver. He acknowledged Chubb’s injury history when asked about their reunion and said he wants to “get him rolling, keep him healthy and see the Bradley Chubb that we all know he’s capable of being.”
Opposite of Chubb is Phillips, another player Fangio said he liked entering the 2021 draft. Entering his third season, Phillips leads the Dolphins in sacks and ranks 19th in the league in pressures over the past two seasons.
With Christian Wilkins occupying the interior defensive line, there should be plenty of opportunities for Chubb and Phillips to excel on the edges.
“They have great potential. But potential -- we got to see it,” Fangio said. “Talking about it is easy, projecting it is easy, but we got to see it. And I’m confident knowing those two guys’ work ethic that they’ll do everything they can to put a good product out there on the field from the both of them. They both have the tools. They both have the makeup to be really good players on the edges for us.”